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Column 77years, I am going deaf. I try as best I can to hear the hon. Gentleman, but sadly I cannot. I promise the hon. Gentleman that I am not ignoring him. If he chooses to intervene, I will gladly give way.
Sir Eldon Griffiths : Of course I do not dissent from the hon. Gentleman's statement that the Soviets are dismantling more. However, they have a great many more to dismantle. We must have asymmetrical reductions.
Mr. Cook : I am so pleased that the hon. Gentleman took the groundbait. He has put on record the fact that, although we claim to have negotiated from a position of strength, the strength was on the Soviet side. There was no concession to the deployment of cruise or Pershing, as the hon. Gentleman has already conceded. The Soviets had more and they could have hit us harder than we could ever have hit them. The concession is one really to common sense, good logic and care about creation.
I promise the House that I will not drop names. However, I freely admit that I am not well informed or an expert on anything. I consider Helmut Schmidt a man of fair experience, and one would ignore the words of such an experienced statesman at one's peril. His comment on the so-called modernisation and need to match developments that are allegedly taking place in the Soviet Union--allegations which are entirely baseless and unfounded--is that the Soviet Union has no intention of replacing the missiles it is dismantling. If the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds is right, the Soviets would not need to do that, because they have too many anyway.
I want to refer once more to the statement made by Dr. Fred Ikle to the opinion leaders in Rome. He said that glasnost was not working. The Soviets are still keeping their budget secret. He said that they would not divulge the budget and then said that they have amassed $300 billion-worth of arms more than we have.
I ask you--I mean the House, Mr. Deputy Secretary ; I would not ask you because that would make my question personal and I would not put that onus on you for all the billions of dollars that there may be in the world--how can Dr. Fred Ikle possibly know that they have $300 billion more than we have if the Soviets are so secretive about their budget? How does that square with the revelations recently about projects such as stealth technology, which have been funded covertly without the knowledge of the Senate or the House of Representatives? Who keeps the budget secret?
Is the truth not more reasonable--that Soviet accountancy, implicit in their economic order, is of such a kind that the Soviet Union cannot publish figures in the same way that we do because it does not examine its income and expenditure in the same way that we do? Is not that statement an honest assessment of the differences between the two systems? It is not secrecy but a difference in the language of accountancy. We can hardly expect the Soviet Union to change the basis of its language overnight.
The contradictions that I am trying to put before the House must be clear to all, but I must continue. Dr. Ikle went on to tell us that technology transfer flows in one direction--from West to East. In other words, technology is developed by us and, somehow or other, gained by the Soviet Union. Yet, at the North Atlantic Assembly's plenary session in Hamburg last week, as part of my duties I had to attend the scientific and technological committee. The expert rapporteur on technology transfer told us--
Column 78wonder of wonders--that five times more licences are bought by us from the Soviet Union than the Soviet Union buys from us. So much for the technical flow being from West to East. Moreover, those licences cover a broad range of technologies--ceramics and metallurgy as well as weaponry.
It is no good the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) sitting there in splendid isolation with his arms folded shaking his head in disbelief. I make him the same offer that I made to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds : does the hon. Gentleman wish to intervene?
Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh) : I do not see what the hon. Gentleman is seeking to prove. Perhaps the Soviets do not need to purchase more than five times as many because they already have the information.
Dr. Ikle , a prestigious spokesman on behalf of the Alliance, said in an inaugural statement to the seminar at the NATO defence college in Rome that technology transfer is from West to East. The expert rapporteur, speaking to the North Atlantic Assembly's scientific and technical committee, proved, quoting figures and examples, that the technology flow is much greater from East to West.
My point, if the hon. Gentleman can latch on to it, difficult though it may be for him, is that untruths are being recorded here. Untruths are being passed to so-called opinion leaders within the Alliance. If the Alliance is meant to withstand the threat to democracy, should it not be based on honesty, candour and consistency which provide the basis for the justice to which I referred when I began? I shall pass on, as the hon. Gentleman seems finally to have understood my point.
Mr. Cook : Do I have to repeat myself? The statements that I am referring to were made directly to me, one by an expert witness to the North Atlantic Assembly's scientific and technical committee, the record of which can be checked--I shall even provide the hon. Gentleman with a written copy of that submission when it has been translated--the other by Dr. Fred Ikle , a spokesman for the Pentagon. The Soviet Union did not have to feed me any information on this occasion. The hon. Gentleman amply illustrates the unheeding stance of some politicians, few though there are on the Conservative Benches, who cannot accept the logic of something even when it hits them between the eyes. I shall try to give the hon. Gentleman some ammunition if he chooses to keep his ears open more carefully. The licences cover a wide range of matters, particularly powder metallurgy techniques, on which we are not quite as advanced as the Soviet Union. At the time, there was a suggestion that the reason why we buy five times more licences from the Soviet Union than they buy from us was
Mr. Cook : There we are : the hon. Gentleman is one jump ahead of me. Yes. The Soviet Union was so much cleverer at stealing them from us-- and selling them back? Do we really believe that? Are we so secretive in our society--this society that we defend--that we allow people to steal them from the closeness of our chests and then flog them back to us? If that is true, either it is a comment on the ineptitude and inefficiency of our counter-espionage--if it exists--or it means that our spies are not so very clever at stealing them back. If this inefficient Marxist-Leninist suppressive system is so bad, how has it managed to do this? Furthermore, if people over there reject their system so energetically, why are they prepared to give us the secrets if we are prepared to give them the secrets? It is all frivolous argument--
Dr. Fred Ikle went on to say that there was no question but that we could continue to resist the threat. He said that our Alliance would have the economic strength, especially if we included Japan. That was an expert spokesman for the Alliance. I want to ask the representatives of Her Majesty's Government when Japan was invited to the North Atlantic table and by whom. No one at the plenary session of the North Atlantic Assembly in Hamburg last week had any knowledge of it. How would such a quest to include Japan in the Alliance square with the pious statement of intent-- the quest for peaceful solutions--contained in the Gracious Speech? How can we be seeking hands of friendship and at the same time be adding partners to make the counter-threat more ominous?
While Dr. Ikle was making those comments, Dr. Robert McGeehan was making other statements at the seminar in Rome. He said that Gorbachev's secret weapon was to say yes. He went on to say that that terrified many military analysts. I have been trying to highlight the contradictions. In other words, many of the military analysts from NATO admit their terror-- "terrified" was Dr. McGeehan's word--that the threat that they have used as a justification for increased expenditure on arms was to be removed. I could accept their terror at the threat being removed if it was prompted by the threat of their jobs being removed, but I do not believe that it is as simple as that.
If we are conscientious about our work, we should all endeavour to put ourselves out of jobs. We should seek to remove the need for legislation. If we create an equitable society, there should never be a need to make laws again. If we seek to achieve an educated society, we should seek to educate people to such a standard that they never again need educating. We should try to work ourselves out of a job, but here we have senior NATO military panellists saying that the secret weapon of saying yes terrified many of them.
They have used that threat as an excuse to increase arms expenditure, which has meant profit for the United States in particular. Now the United States is calling for more burden-sharing. I can understand why it is doing so, because the United States' budget is in an unholy mess. Nevertheless, if there is to be any serious, clinical, logical burden-sharing, we should first identify the size of the
Column 80burden. To do so, we must engage in genuine threat assessment. We must calculate precisely the nature of the threat, from which direction it comes, its size, how best to counteract it, and how much such counteraction will cost. Only when all those factors have been calculated can we talk sensibly about burden-sharing. Currently, we are applying a logic that will serve only to put more profits in the pockets of the armourers.
The American budget cannot stand the cost, and we know that the Soviet budget cannot either, because the Russians have already been driven by economic constraints to the peace table. Nor can our country stand the cost. So a first priority of burden-sharing must be genuine threat assessment.
Dr. McGeehan was good enough to define deterrence : as a means of discouraging even the thought that a military adventure may have a pay-off in the West. He stated that the Soviet Union has 11,000 strategic warheads, whereas the United States has 14,000. I believe that he included in that, as single units, multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles. In any event, that is some
deterrence--deterrence times 50, or enough to wipe out the whole world 50 times over. Yet the Soviet Union states unequivocally that it has a policy of "no first use". The Alliance refuses to make the same commitment, and we insist on a Mexican stand-off based on "We dare if you dare" rather than "We won't if you won't".
We already provide any potential enemy, and not only the Soviet Union, with a nuclear deterrent. It is free to them but very costly to us. It takes the shape and form of every nuclear power station on our territory. The strategic use of a conventional attack on such targets would not result in nationwide deprivation of energy supplies but would incur nationwide nuclear contamination. Dr. McGeehan added that deterrence, to be credible, must display a readiness to engage in active use.
We do not need nuclear weapons to pose a nuclear threat to the Soviet Union, because it has 150 nuclear power stations, the exact locations of which we already know. Is not an armoury of 150 Chernobyls enough for anyone? Is that not sufficient deterrence? If one operator going beyond the bounds of a procedure manual can cause the problems that Chernobyl did, surely one or 150 strategically placed ICBMs would cause untold havoc. There is no justification for the nuclear weaponry that Dr. McGeehan mentions. Nevertheless, he adds :
"No matter how much asymetrical conventional disarmament takes place, we will still need nuclear weapons as a deterrent because they deter."
We do not need them. They are provided by our potential enemies for us, as we provide them for our potential enemies.
Dr. McGeehan also commented :
"INF can be a real threat to the Alliance."
I am sure that he did not mean that in an adverse sense--or I hope he did not, because moves towards peace are bound to remove the threat and thus the need for the Alliance, even though that in turn would increase the threat to Dr. McGeehan's job.
I have tried to point out the contradictions between the stances adopted by some north American spokesmen with whom the Prime Minister has a particular relationship, as we were reminded by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, who has left the Chamber. I have given the bad
Column 81news, and now I hope to give the good news. I quote the West German Premier, Mr. Kohl, speaking at the plenary session in Hamburg last Thursday :
"Trust must be built up everywhere, in every area of concern." He added :
"We must insist on the exclusively defensive task of our armed forces, which the West has always maintained should be their aim." That was confirmed by NATO's secretary-general when he addressed another, lengthier session :
"We want less and not more weapons. This alliance has always been a defensive one. We only keep the minimum force necessary to keep our own security."
That suggests that the emphasis is returning to the original need for the Alliance. So not all is bad faith, thank God. I say that not as a profanity but as a fervent prayer. It is a necessary assurance when one reads the trailers flaunted by this lapdog press of ours, in reporting that there have already been warnings--if one is to believe such stories--to the Queen that she ought to reject any invitation from the Soviet Union, if one is forthcoming.
I am astounded at the mental gymnastics that have been in evidence since those reports, in an attempt at justification. We have heard some here tonight from the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes), who frequently waves the Union Jack. I do not blame him for that ; I too have fought for the Union flag. But if we are dragging up bits of history from 70 years ago about the killing of the Romanovs--presumably by the Gorbachevs--we are finding a strange barrel to scrape.
The hon. Gentleman is not in his place, but I hope that he will read Hansard tomorrow. Perhaps he should be reminded that since that sad epoch-- I do not approve of what happened to the Romanovs--the people of whom we are speaking have fought side by side with us to resist the Fascist threat that sought to establish the Third Reich. In so doing, they lost 21.5 million of their population.
Mr. Holt rose --
Mr. Cook : I have not said anything about the hon. Gentleman yet, but I am about to. He sits there smirking and nodding and accusing the Soviets of coming into the war only after they were invaded. Many accusations are made against the Soviet Union for not keeping international treaties. Let me give the hon. Gentleman a history lesson.
Rightly or wrongly, the Soviet Union had signed a non-aggression pact with Germany. Would you--I beg your pardon, Madam Deputy Speaker ; I know that you would never be so treacherous, although I am not at all sure about other hon. Members--would the hon. Member for Langbaurgh wish the Soviet Union to have broken that treaty, simply to justify the illogicality of his argument today? It was Germany that broke the treaty ; and, in a way, was it not fortunate for us that Germany chose to do so? At that time we had few other allies who were able to come directly to our aid. Were we not lucky that Herr Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, and that the Soviet
Column 82Union came in on our side? Does that not make it even more preposterous to rake up the Romanovs at this point in history, to try to justify a smack in the mouth of Gorbachev while at the same time extending the hand of friendship?
I also remind the House that the Spanish royal family has already seen the good sense of extending the hand of friendship. But from the few hon. Members who have chosen to occupy the Conservative Benches this evening--no more than a handful--we are hearing some sort of justification for rejecting the Soviet Union's advances of friendship, perpetuating the cold war mentality within the United Kingdom Parliament. I could expect that from other nations, but here, where we pride ourselves on sound logic and common sense, I find it depressing and more than a little frightening that hon. Members should seek to return to that 1950s mentality.
The contradiction must be evident to all : we have heard pious words in the Gracious Speech and counter-statements from the Conservative Benches. Now I shall give way to the hon. Member for Langbaurgh.
Mr. Holt : May I examine the logic of what the hon. Gentleman is saying? It was the gullibility of the Russians and the belief that they would not be attacked by the Germans that caused them to sign that agreement. If we were to take Gorbachev at face value in the same way, we could well be invaded as well.
Mr. Cook : The hon. Gentleman seeks to visit the sins of the Germans --who are now our allies--on the Soviet Union. Can I really believe that that is the kind of logic that the hon. Gentleman learned at school? If so, it frightens me, because I went to the same school.
Mr. Cook : As the school was run by Jesuits at the time, I would prefer a Jesuit assessment. The Jesuits taught us that we should never compromise with error. But now the hon. Gentleman, who went to the school in 1943, I believe
Mr. Cook : Having been to the school in 1940, the hon. Gentleman will know a good deal about what the Soviets had promised the Germans, and what the Germans had promised the Soviets. Is he now saying that, although it was the bad faith of the Germans that brought the Soviet Union into the war ; although the Soviets were our allies for five years ; although we supplied them with arms in the Atlantic convoys ; although our service men received awards for bravery for taking them those weapons ; although the Soviets received bravery awards for using them ; although we jointly defeated the threat to Western democracy posed by the Axis--is he saying that, after all that, the Russians are capable of bad faith, despite having lost 21.5 million of their population?
Mr. Cook : I have never heard such nonsense in all my life. It is absolute rubbish. That is the mentality that threatens the prospect of any improvement in relations between East and West. It is the mentality that threatens detente. We are in danger of erring on the side not of caution but of insult.
We must remember that we have had 40 years of cold war--40 years too many. If we throw an opportunity such as this back in the face of the Soviet Union, as the hon. Member for Langbaurgh seems to wish us to, it may be the last opportunity that we are ever given. Surely all hon. Members have more sense than that.
Mr. George Walden (Buckingham) : I am tempted to follow the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) on the subject of the Soviet Union, because I have a personal interest in that country. In reply to his last remark about the cold war, I should like to put it on record that a day or two ago my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that the cold war had come to an end, and she gave credit to Mikhail Gorbachev for bringing it to an end. That of itself would tend to undermine the hon. Gentleman's entire speech, but I shall not rub it in.
My personal interest, incidentally, stems partly from having learnt Russian at school and then as a postgraduate student at Moscow university. While I was there in 1961, the Berlin wall was being built. I remember the Russians, with their great resources of humour, asking each other whether this meant that we were about to have a war. The answer was no, there would not be a war, but there would be such a hell of a fight for peace that there would not be a stone left standing. We are now in a period of a fight for peace and we seem to be doing well.
However, before I pass on to the main point of my speech, I should like to remind the hon. Member for Stockton, North that what happens in the Soviet Union depends not on his speech, my speech, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's speeches, the speech made by Fred Ikle or the speeches or actions of the President of the United States of America, but on the Soviet people.
The wisest observation that has been made on Mr. Gorbachev's future in the past few weeks has come from a secret source--the deputy head of the Central Intelligence Agency. He said that Mr. Gorbachev had not yet begun to tackle the serious problems in his country. As the hon. Member for Stockton, North would agree, those problems are predominantly fundamental economic problems, such as the structure of prices in the Soviet Union, rents, labour and labour mobility. Mr. Gorbachev, in his wisdom, has been rather cautious about confronting those problems head on.
The deputy head of the CIA also said that Mr. Gorbachev was trying to switch over gradually from driving on the left-hand side of the road to driving on the right-hand side. I shall not go into detail on his remarks because I do not want to detain the House, but I must say that there is a certain wisdom in those remarks. Before becoming too excited about our ability to influence events in the Soviet Union, we should remember that Mr. Gorbachev faces severe problems and, try as we might, we cannot influence them, even at the margin.
ture of Soviet society. That is an enormous task, and we must understand how long it will take him. To make accusations of bad faith, as has been done this evening, and to express a lack of beliein Mr. Gorbachev may put his efforts in jeopardy. We must offer the embrace of friendship and give an incentive, and that has been acknowledged by the announcement today of visits to psychiatric hospitals in the Soviet Union. The Russians are opening their societto us. Does the hon. Member for Buckingham agree that that is positive proof of their anxiety to match us move for move? Mr. Walden : As I said earlier, I am tempted to discuss this matter further, but I shall not do so because I have other matters to raise. Ultimately, it is not a question of whether we believe in Mr. Gorbachev. That is a rather sentimental formulation. What matters is whether Mr. Gorbachev will survive, and we have no means of knowing or ensuring that. I draw the conclusion that we must maintain our defences as well as the most intimate diplomacy that we can contrive. I should have thought that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's personal success in relations with the Soviet Union and the invitation to Mr. Gorbachev to come to this country--which he has accepted--are proof that the Government are doing what they can, within the strict limits of the possible, to ensure that Mr. Gorbachev's efforts are welcomed in this country.
I shall now follow my own logic of concentrating on what one can do to help oneself. I want to deal with a strictly domestic matter. In the Gracious Speech, Her Majesty said :
"My Government will continue to attach very great importance to protecting our environment, both nationally and internationally." Clearly, that refers to greater and more global matters than the one with which I shall deal in my speech.
I want to talk about a concrete matter, concerning the environment, in my constituency. Last week, I opened an exhibition in the village of Tingewick, just outside Buckingham. It concerned a bypass which the villagers of Tingewick have been trying to secure for many years. I am pleased to see the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport on the Front Bench this evening, and I express my personal gratitude to him for agreeing to come to look at the situation at the end of this week. Many hon. Members have problems concerning bypasses and I do not underestimate the problem that my hon. Friend faces in that respect. However, I must stress that the problem in Tingewick is a special one and not simply a matter of local agitation. It is almost a desperate matter for the villagers of Tingewick. I shall give the House some flavour of the problem, and place on record the fact that there have been three deaths and six injuries so far this year in Tingewick. A recent survey has shown that 13,639 vehicles passed along the A421, on which Tingewick lies, in one day alone and, of those, 1,899 were heavy goods vehicles. It may require a little imagination for those who do not live in a village to understand what that means. I should like to quote the words of a local resident, Mrs. Rumble, who wrote :
"The main street through the village is very narrow and winding"-- the main street is 16 ft across ; a little wider than the Gangway of the House--
"therefore a HGV travelling at 30 mph and faster produces a suction of air that nearly blows an adult pedestrian from their
Column 85feet to say nothing of a child. In wet weather conditions, the spray from the vehicles soaks pedestrians and property in a muddy film. The speeding cars through Tingewick produce a hazard to our residents, especially the children for even though a pedestrian crossing has been installed, very often cars in a hurry fail to stop. The pedestrian crossing has been been put out of action on occasions because of passing traffic mounting the pavement and knocking out the traffic light. Large vehicles and cars park on the pavement, restricting access to pedestrians.
We in the village obtain very little rest from the above problems, at night or at the weekend. Locally on a Sunday a regularly held Sunday market boosts the traffic during Sunday morning, and it seems that Sunday afternoon is set aside for wide and difficult loads to pass us by!"
I could multiply such descriptions. For the benefit of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, I should like to recall one or two details of the history of the attempt to secure a bypass in Tingewick.
In 1981, Buckinghamshire county council did not consider that there was any likelihood of providing Tingewick with a bypass in the next 15 years due to financial restrictions and greater priorities elsewhere in the county. In 1982, the county council included the Tingewick bypass in a 15-year plan for possible major projects. In 1983, the traffic count showed an increase from 600 per hour to 1,200 per hour. I shall come to the reasons for that later. In October 1984, the Tingewick bypass was included in a five-year plan to begin in 1989-90. Then, in March 1986, news broke that the bypass would be delayed because of the latest expenditure restrictions. Those facts paint the picture--the villagers' hopes of relief were raised and shortly afterwards dashed.
Why am I raising the matter of a small community in the House? Clearly, it is partly because it is a constituency matter to which I attach importance. However, a wider issue is at stake. One reason for the massive increase in traffic through that small north Buckinghamshire village is Milton Keynes. We all know that Milton Keynes is a great success and that it has some splendid roads of its own, but the access routes to Milton Keynes are suffering--not benefiting--from the town's success.
As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport knows, when the M40 is extended, one of the natural links between the M1 and the M40 will pass through Tingewick. In other words, one faces the prospect of those two massive arteries, which run north to south through the United Kingdom, having as one link a 16 ft spread of road with massive lorries passing along it. I am not exaggerating when I say that the wing mirrors of those lorries pass within inches of the pedestrians on the narrow pavement. That is intolerable and inhuman and something must be done.
I am fully aware that there is a problem about priorities : my hon. Friend has a problem about priorities and Buckinghamshire county council has a problem about priorities. However, I should like to remind my hon. Friend of one or two figures that I have obtained from the county council. A recent letter from the policy and resources committee chairman states :
"The County Council is faced with a continuing decline in its capital allocations set by central government. Last year I referred to the decline in the Council's transport capital allocation from £9.1 m in 1984-85 to £4.6 m in 1987-88. For 1988-89 the allocation is £2.7 m and thus the rate at which the Council can carry out the many desirable road schemes is further reduced."
Obviously, I have looked at the county council's priorities and naturally I should like to see Tingewick at the top of the list. However, in all fairness I must note that
Column 86we live in a thriving area of the country. That means that the weight of traffic in the areas around Aylesbury and High Wycombe is growing--and so too, are the problems. Therefore, I should like to draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister to the critical situation in the village of Tingewick. It is a small place. I have 120 villages in my constituency, but I have never seen anything as bad as the situation faced by the inhabitants of that village. In saying that, I do not want to underestimate the problems of other areas which are also suffering from the welcome economic growth of the whole area. Winslow on the A413 is having a pretty bad time and the inhabitants of Waddesdon on the A41 have a pretty difficult time also.
I could raise other matters now with my hon. Friend, but I prefer to do so by correspondence. All our problems relate to the growth of traffic in the area. I refer especially to the village of Turweston, which was a quiet community of 140 people whose lives have now been changed by the Brackley bypass. I shall get in touch with my hon. Friend in the hope that he can do something to lessen the noise and pollution there.
What I am saying is pretty close to what was said earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths), in that I welcome the results of the Government's economic policies as I see them in my constituency, whether in Milton Keynes or in Aylesbury. However, my hon. Friend the Minister has a difficult task because he must ensure that the indirect effects of economic growth on the environment are well understood by the Government and that the Government are prepared to put in the resources to enable people to benefit from the expansion instead of having their environment adversely affected.
Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) : Over the next few days many things will be said about the Gracious Speech, and over the next 12 months Bill after Bill will be brought before the House, and I can promise that they will be opposed vigorously by the Opposition. For month after month, we will be subjected to legislation from the Government that will freeboot our civil liberties, destroy what is left of the welfare state and make even more scapegoats of minority groups. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) is not in his place, because he made a few comments about terrorism and I should like to put it to him that a terrorist is a terrorist. Opposition Members are not very impressed with that kind of speech when we see the Conservative party invite a well-known terrorist such as Calero from Nicaragua to one of its fringe meetings. I should have liked to ask the hon. Gentleman, "When is a terrorist not a terrorist?"
The Gracious Speech holds no promises of a peaceful and secure future for my constituents. It offers more and more of the same--despair for the homeless. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Mr. Thompson) is no longer on the Front Bench because I have with me some shameful headlines from the local press that he shares with me. Those headlines refer to the rising rate of homelessness and to the "shame of Christmas homeless" in Calderdale. I regret that he is not here to hear me, because my constituency of Halifax shares the same local authority as his constituency and we never had a problem with homelessness until this Government took office.
Column 87We are not an inner-city area. We are a small industrial town--no, a reasonably sized, not too small, industrial town-- and we did not know about homelessness until the disastrous policies of this Government were introduced. I see nothing in the Gracious Speech to alleviate the problems that we now face. I see nothing in the Gracious Speech to help industry. Constituencies such as mine still rely on manufacturing industry to a large extent for employment of the majority of our people.
What I do see in the Gracious Speech is the statement : "firm financial policies designed to bear down on inflation." In real-speak that means a continuation of high interest rates, a strong pound and all the other disastrous policies that are leading industries into trouble yet again. It is not an understatement to say that a first-year economics student would recognise that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his policies are heading manufacturing industry towards another 1981-82. That part of the economy is in a mess, and no matter how much the Chancellor huffs and puffs--and he does that regularly, like an inefficient geyser--on or off the record, the fact is that these are worrying times for towns and constituencies with a large manufacturing base.
In a recent Adjournment debate on textiles and the clothing industry, I raised several matters of concern. There is nothing in the Gracious Speech to satisfy workers or managers. Only today I received a letter from the British Clothing Industry Association Ltd., the British Textile Confederation, and the Knitting Industries Federation, which reiterates what I have said. The letter states : "But we now share a growing apprehension about the level of activity over the coming months and beyond. On the export front, where we have had considerable success, the strengthening of sterling has made it difficult to maintain the pace of advance. At home, the effect of higher interest rates is likely to depress consumer and retail demand. The weak United States dollar has materially increased the competitiveness of imports, particularly from those countries in the Far East whose currencies are linked to the dollar, and this has had a twofold impact : pressure on the market place, and pressure on prices and margins, reflected in some areas of the textile industry by short-time working, closures and redundancies. There is concern about future orders across a growing area of our joint industries." I reiterate that there is nothing in the Queen's Speech to reassure people. There is no promise to come clean on the real level of unemployment so that regions such as mine can qualify for EEC grants. It has continuously annoyed me that our unemployment figures are fiddled. That is to the detriment of areas such as mine when they apply for grants. Halifax is like the hole in the middle of the doughnut. Firms move out and relocate where they can get EEC grants. The industries that I have mentioned have fought back hard since the 1980s, when the Government's disastrous policies threw them into recession. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Ms. Quin) is present. She quite rightly referred to the Government's policies as Mappa Mundi. The south-east figures largely in the Government's policies, and the rest of us must manage with breadcrumbs.
We read in the Gracious Speech that yet another Bill is to be brought forward--they now total about 50--for the destruction of local government. Yet again, housing is to be on the agenda. When future generations study the Tory Government's record over the past decade, they will quite