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Ban on Imports (Child Labour)

3.31 pm

Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie (Glasgow, Pollok) : I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit the sale of imported goods, the manufacture of which has involved child labour. I place before the House a Bill that seeks to ban the import of goods that have been produced using child labour. I do so because to use children in this way is a crime. It denies their right to be treated as human beings while, at the same time, denying the right of adult workers to earn a wage worthy of their labour. As long as we buy the goods that child labour produces, we help to maintain a system that our own history has proved evil.

Today, I shall cite examples of child exploitation in India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, South America, Turkey and Portugal. This is only scratching the surface, because child labour is so commonly used that it is impossible to detail the full extent of its misery in 10 minutes.

Children today work in conditions every bit as wretched as those that prevailed in the darkest days of our own industrial revolution--when little mites were forced to toil from dawn till dusk in unhealthy, poorly lit, badly ventilated and highly dangerous conditions because the pittance doled out to them by the profit-hungry capitalists was needed to eke out the miserable wages that were grudgingly given to their parents.

Such vile conditions epitomise the very worst of those Victorian values that are so highly revered in certain quarters--values that set the human soul at naught in the all-pervading pursuit of profit. My interest in the evils of child labour was aroused by various media reports, and, while I am pleased at the number of hon. Members who have signed the early-day motion that I tabled at Easter, I am sorry that the Government would not name the high street stores that currently sell goods that have been made using child labour, because, every day, all over the world, children are abused as they produce many of the goods we buy. Often they work in conditions of slavery--always in conditions of misery and injustice.

This is clearly seen in the now infamous story of India's carpet boys. In the state of Uttar-Pradesh 100,000 children work their weary little fingers to the bone as they knot carpets, 90 per cent. of which are exported. Children as young as five and six work up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, and a boy of seven is described as a "skilled craftsman". They get just enough food to keep them working, are frequently beaten, and often have to sleep beside their looms because they do not have homes to go to as they have either been kidnapped or sold into debt bondage.

One of the biggest British Firms using looms here isE. M. Hill and Co., which pays its loom owners £105 for a carpet. The loom owner, in turn, may pay his four children £4 each--that is, if he pays them at all. What price the status symbol of those handwoven Indian carpets that sell in some London stores for from £1,200 to £5,000? Next to that cruelty are the flames reminiscent of Dante's "Inferno", whose deafening noise drowns out the piteous cries of those who toil amidst blazing furnace temperatures, designed to rent asunder body and soul.

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Life's punishments are meted out by making the doomed slave in temperatures of 1,800 deg. as they are forced to stretch into the mouth of a furnace to draw out molten material. They then have to run, carrying it on a seven-foot ladle, trampling on broken glass on the way. In such a hell-hole, is it any wonder that tuberculosis is rife, and hideous accidents and burns commonplace?

Yet those are the conditions that little children of eight and nine have to work in as they toil in India's glass factories. Their labour is deemed to be so necessary that the owner of the C. A. glass works, where Nescafe jars are made, has been quoted as saying : "The glass industry cannot function without children. They can run much faster than adults and therefore production goes up." Similar conditions apply in neighbouring Bangladesh. The Daily Record recently exposed the shame of the Scottish tea company, James Finlay, whose chairman, Sir Colin Moffat Campbell, was quoted as saying :

"We are very proud of our achievements over there in Bangladesh." Those achievements involve adults having to work for 60p a day and children having to work with them. Sir Colin's claim not to employ child labour is on a par with the description of his home at Kylbryde castle as "just a medium-sized house". Thank God I do not share his values.

In Thailand, poor people are often forced to sell their children into slavery and a quarter of the work force is aged between 10 and 14. As outlined recently in the magazine Marie-Claire, conditions in Thailand's sweatshops make those described by Charles Dickens read like life in a holiday camp. Examples have been given of children working in a soya sauce factory from 5 am one morning until 2 am the next. Others in an electric light factory have to cut through bare wires with their teeth. In a factory that makes plastic straws, kids work from 5 am until 11 pm, after which they are locked up to stop them running away.

In Malaysia, many children are forced to work as part of the family unit because their parents are too under-nourished to have the strength they need to meet their daily rubber quotas. The quotas are becoming more and more difficult to meet as the demand for latex products grows with the AIDS epidemic.

The BBC programme, "Child Slaves", also showed recently that children have to work as part of the family unit in Mexico where, at the age of 12 or 13, they have to tend the crops to make sure that the man from Del Monte says yes, that everything is ship-shape in Captain Bird's Eye's garden and that life stays jolly in the valley of the Green Giant. Life is anything but a barrel of laughs for the kids whose youth is eaten away by the greed of the multinationals. The "real thing" for kids in Brazil means that they have to toil in the sugar plantations to make sure that "things go better with Coca Cola" for the millions who drink it.

Nor can Europe be complacent. Children as young as 10 have been found working in the sweatshops of Turkey, sewing garments for customers who often ask that the products reach them without labels so that they can then sew in their own, unblemished by the sweaty calluses on the tiny palms that made them.

Everyone knows that Portugal's shoe trade has been allowed to flourish at the expense of British jobs. Its cheap shoes are in most high street stores. Even though Portugal

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has been a member of the EEC for three years, many of those shoes are still made using child labour. Firms such as Marks and Spencer say that they try to ensure that the shoes they sell have not been made by exploiting children, but why do they not guarantee it? I fear that, all too often, reasonable prices hide the real cost of the products that we are asked to buy, in terms of the misery and suffering that have produced them. Opponents will argue that such is life, and that to ban the imports would make life even worse for the children. Balderdash! Two wrongs do not make a right in any language and so long as we stand back and do nothing, we condemn more children to endure hell in their short lives here on earth. The time for mere sympathy is over. We must act now to make sure that child exploitation is ended.

Britain can give a lead here, because we are one of the biggest importers of goods that have been produced by child labour. We must now become the voice of conscience, through which the silent pleas of the abused cry out for mercy.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie, Mr. Allen Adams, Mr. Jimmy Wray, Mr. Jimmy Hood, Mr. Alan Meale, Mr. John Hughes, Mr. Frank Cook, Mr. Don Dixon, Mr. George Galloway, Mr. Keith Vaz, Mr. Mike Watson and Mr. Frank Haynes.

Ban on Imports (Child Labour)

Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie accordingly presented a Bill to prohibit the sale of imported goods, the manufacture of which has involved child labour : and the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 20 October, and to be printed. [Bill 198.]

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) throughout the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Dunnachie) was not just chunnering away, but was shouting out. He was making all sorts of remarks. I think that he said that it was a waste of the House's time. The hon. Gentleman should begin to learn some manners.

Mr. Speaker : I was listening carefully to what the hon. Member who moved the motion was saying. I did not hear anything else.

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Opposition Day

[18th Allotted Day]

Local Government Finance

Mr. Speaker : We now come to the first of the Opposition motions-- that on the poll tax. I must announce to the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. 3.42 pm

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland) : I beg to move-- [Interruption.] That is all very well, but we would like to see that right hon. Gentleman replaced with a Socialist Secretary of State.

I beg to move,

That this House rejects the unfair, inefficient, intrusive and bureaucratic poll tax, the so-called community charge, because the tax will bear most harshly on the poorest and weakest in the community, will discriminate against carers at home, will undermine and distort local accountability by concentrating an unprecedented 75 per cent. of local authority expenditure under Ministerial control, and is capricious and unfair in its effect on areas of the country with low rateable values ; furthermore regards the proposed rebate system as mean and inadequate ; recognises that the national business tax will cause grave financial problems for thousands of small business people ; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to abandon these proposals.

We already have evidence of those effects in Scotland.

Before I proceed, I want to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the new Secretary of State on his major promotion. We know that he brings considerable intelligence and ability to a Department much in need of both. However, what has been lacking in the Department of the Environment are not just those things, but good judgment and coherent principles to safeguard the environment, the essential public services and local democratic government.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : Will my hon. Friend remind the House of how many Environment Secretaries he has seen off since he has been Shadow Environment Secretary? How long does he think the new incumbent will last in his office before we have a Socialist Environment Secretary?

Dr. Cunningham : As I said earlier, it is all very well seeing off Tory Secretaries of State, but I am getting a little fed up with them being replaced by other Tories. Next time we want to replace not only the right hon. Gentleman, but all Members of the Treasury Front Bench.

The new Secretary of State and his new Minister for Local Government, the hon. Member for Wirral, West (Mr. Hunt), whom we also congratulate and welcome, must have at least some private misgivings, because they have inherited something of a shambles. The poll tax, water privatisation, the Government's failure adequately to safeguard the environment, both nationally and internationally, are, together with the threat to the National Health Service, the most deeply resented issues in British politics.

It is evident that no amount of repackaging or changes in personnel can possibly make the poll tax and water privatisations popular, or acceptable to the British people. Both are clearly seen as deeply unfair, inefficient and

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damaging to families, to services such as education, and to the environment. Both are inconsistent with the widespread desire of the British people for a better quality of life.

Therefore, without fundamental changes in the policies themselves, the new Secretary of State faces just as rough a ride with his colleagues as his predecessor--indeed, an even tougher time, as the awful truth of the consequences of the poll tax and the national business tax on property dawn on the Tory party and the people. Mr. Robin Squire (Hornchurch) rose--

Dr. Cunningham : No, I shall not give way.

We shall, of course, miss the special and idiosyncratic presentational skills of the previous Secretary of State, whom we also wish well. Opposition Members take considerable pleasure in the knowledge that he is still on the loose, still on the Government Benches and free to range the country in an attempt to recover support for the Tories, much of it lost by his own policies at this Department in the first place. British industry has been remarkably and uncharacteristically silent about its new Secretary of State. We share its obvious misgivings about the future well-being of industrial policy, jobs and the economy.

Like his hon. Friends, we shall listen to the Secretary of State's speech with particular interest. Indeed, the Labour party chose this debate because we wanted to give him the earliest opportunity to announce the changes in policy that he envisages. We promise him a warm welcome.

The Secretary of State will know about the uproar in the Chamber last week about the poll tax--or the "Tory tax" as the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) rightly calls it. That uproar was yet another sign of the fear that is spreading through the Tory party about the implications of the poll tax for them and their survival. Like us, I am sure that they too will be anxious, if not desperate, to hear about changes in policy, not just in personnel and presentation.

It was the predecessor of the Secretary of State who, with typical candour, blew the gaff on the Conservative Government's real intentions about the poll tax when he asked why a duke should pay more than a dustman. The implication is clear. The intention was to introduce a tax unrelated to income or to the ability to pay, and that is exactly what the Tory Government have done.

The people of Scotland have already been made to suffer, but they have reaped their revenge through the ballot box. The people of England and Wales will eventually do so too.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster) rose --

Dr. Cunningham : No, I shall not give way at the moment. We say that there are many reasons--equity, social justice and the principles of progressive taxation--why someone such as Lord King, the chairman of British Airways, with a reported salary of £386,000 per annum, should pay more than an engineering apprentice in his company with a take-home pay of between £65 and £85 per week. We know instinctively that it is grotesquely unfair to make them pay the same contribution in local taxation -- [Interruption.]

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Did I hear a Tory Member mutter something about rebates? Yesterday, I released up-to-date figures compiled by the statistical section of the Library, which showed the mean and inadequate rebates that would have been available if the poll tax had been in operation this year. Last week, the Department finally published its illustrative poll tax figures for 1989-90. Using the latest poll tax figures, I asked the statistical section of the Library to calculate for each local authority the maximum level of net weekly income at which poll tax rebate would be payable to single persons, married couples and pensioners.

The Government have always been afraid and unwilling to publish that information. The Social Security Act 1986 and the poll tax Act 1988 require everyone to pay at least 20 per cent. of the rates bill, regardless of their circumstances or ability to pay. That extremely unfair rule continues next year, when the poll tax comes into force on 1 April 1990 in England and Wales.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster) : Will the hon. Gentleman admit that, because the figures published in the document about the Labour party's proposed capital tax and local income tax showed how catastrophic they would be for the British public, the Labour party abandoned those policies?

Dr. Cunningham : No, I will not admit that, because it is not true. There has been no abandonment of policy. Nor did the previous Secretary of State for the Environment publish any realistic figures. The right hon. Gentleman told me in a note referred to in a parliamentary answer on 9 November 1987 :

"There is no comprehensive data available from which to assess the outcome of a capital revaluation of domestic rateable values, and it is not Government policy to undertake such a revaluation. Some insight into the possible effect of a revaluation on the basis of capital values can be obtained by considering the relationship between house prices and existing rateable values in England." But the Department does not have the data. It was quite dishonest of the previous holder of that high office to fabricate the results.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Chris Patten) : I notice that the Leader of the Opposition said last week that the Opposition's policy needed sophisticating. Will the hon. Gentleman say when it is likely that their policy will be sophisticated enough to share with the rest of us?

Dr. Cunningham : We are sophisticating all our policies all the time. That is why there is such a large and growing gap in British public opinion about the relative merits of party policy. When we have finished our considerations of these matters, the Secretary of State will not be the first to know, and that will come as no surprise to him. However, his right hon. and hon. Friends are waiting to hear from him not about Labour party policy, but how he proposes to dig them out of the appalling mess that present Government policy has got them into in their constituencies. Let me illustrate how big that mess is.

Figures show that a single pensioner in the Prime Minister's Finchley constituency, would face a poll tax bill of £290 per person per annum and would lose all entitlement to rebate if his or her net income exceeded £72.50 per week. In other words, a pensioner with a net income of £73 per week would be expected to find £5.57 per week to pay the poll tax. In Bath, the constituency of the Secretary of State, a single pensioner faced with a poll

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tax bill of £281 per year, according to the Government's figures, would lose all entitlement to rebate if his or her net income exceeded £71.60 per week.

A married couple with two children aged eight and 10 living in Finchley would lose all rebate if their net income exceeded £151 per week. In other words, they would have to find £11.15 per week just to pay their combined poll tax. A married couple with two children living in similar circumstances in the Secretary of State's constituency would lose all entitlement to rebate if their income exceeded £149.10 per week, and would have to find £10.81 per week to pay their combined poll tax bill.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South) rose --

Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham) rose

Dr. Cunningham : A single person under 25 living in Finchley would lose all entitlement to a rebate if his or her net income exceeded £58.80 per week, and nearly 10 per cent. would go towards the poll tax.

Those are the realistic implications of the impact of the poll tax on take- home pay, including the Government's current proposals for rebates. Those figures prove that all but the poorest face substantial additional tax burdens, with everyone required to pay the minimum 20 per cent. The tables show how little the rebates are related to the ability to pay or personal circumstances and are based on this Government tolerating scandalously low levels of pay and poverty.

The figures reinforce the conclusion of yesterday's Child Poverty Action Group report on poll tax benefits and the poor, which said : "The poll tax is intrinsically unfair--as a flat-rate tax, it falls equally on the shoulders of the rich and the poor. Even with the help of rebates it is poorly related to the ability to pay."

The inefficiencies of the poll tax are legion. Local government has already been faced with bills two to three times those for the collection of rates. At the annual conference of the Tory-dominated Association of District Councils, its leader, Tory councillor Roy Thomason, interrupted the then Secretary of State, the present Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, to say :

"£200 million more, Secretary of State."

The then Secretary of State replied :

"My advice to you is to find better ways of raising the community charge and try to make savings, rather than always complaining about not having enough money."

That answer was jeered to the rooftops by the Tory-dominated conference of the Association of District Councils.

Last week, there was a fiasco when the Government announced the so-called "safety nets". Howls of outrage from Tory Members rang round this Chamber, but in the main, they were only getting what they voted for in Division after Division, when, with a few honourable exceptions, they passed the legislation in the first place. The panic in the Tory party was astonishing.

Mr. Squire : As the hon. Gentleman and the House know, I come into the category he has just mentioned. If he is to beguile me to an alternative solution, he must--as I am sure he will--suggest one or more alternative ways in which we may proceed ; otherwise, I may be convinced to follow my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Dr. Cunningham : I recollect that the hon. Gentleman had his own alternative, which he tried to persuade his

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ministerial colleagues to accept, without success. In the main, Tory Members voted for what they are getting, and their panic is astonishing. It exposes the reality that many of them apparently did not know what they were voting for.

The safety net financial allocations are as capricious as every other aspect of the poll tax. Their application has nothing to do with efficiency or otherwise. Tories in the north, especially the north-west and Yorkshire, want more grant for their often Labour-controlled authorities because they fear a political backlash. Tories in the south complain that their constituents will subsidise their colleagues' areas. Let us consider the reality.

Wandsworth, for example, a Tory borough, gains £46.4 million from the safety net system. Is Wandsworth inefficient? Is that what Conservative Members are saying? Is it a poor council? Or is there a political reason for that allocation? Birmingham, a Labour city, contributes £50.2 million. Birmingham certainly qualifies under the Tory definition of efficiency, yet Birmingham has huge problems in housing, employment and inner-city difficulties. It has had to adjust to a cumulative loss of more than £500 million in rate support grant alone under this Government. Yet the people of Birmingham, under the safety nets, are asked to contribute an additional £50.2 million to subsidise the poll tax.

Let us consider Westminster. Is that a well-run Tory council? The safety net effect adds £33 per adult to the poll tax of £428 in Westminster. Lady Porter's policy of "building stable communities", which was described by Tory councillor Mrs. Patricia Kirwan as "gerrymandering the electoral processes", will cost each poll tax payer in Westminster an extra £60 a year. Is Westminster efficient? Are any Conservative voices raised about what is going on there? Copeland borough council in my own constituency, which, under Labour control, had no rates increases for seven years, gains £5.2 million from safety netting--equivalent to £94 poll tax per adult--but the average two-adult household in my constituency will still be £40 a year worse off under the poll tax than under the rating system. So much for Tory claims that people are benefiting.

We know that poll tax registration involves massive new and regrettable intrusions into people's privacy and family lives. Many councils are asking people to respond to questions that the registration officer has no right to ask in the first place. Breaches of the Data Protection Act 1984 have occurred, and more than 300 councils are being required by the Data Protection Registrar to account for the questions on their forms. I seriously ask the Secretary of State to go away and look at that problem and do something about it. Will the Government stop unnecessary, and in some cases unlawful, activity by poll tax registration officers? Those problems were highlighted during our debates, but they were dismissed by the then Ministers.

I should like to know whether the Secretary of State intends to make any changes. Responsibility for the final level of poll tax charged will overwhelmingly rest with Ministers and not with councils, whatever their political control. Ministers will decide and control 75 per cent. of council income, and they have already begun to consider how they can gerrymander the situation.

In the controversial propaganda leaflet that was sent to every household earlier this year, the Government said :

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"Every council will decide the level of its community charge--just as it decides the rates now."

Of course, that statement is totally untrue. The leaflet goes on to mention the needs grant that each council will get. What the leaflet does not say is that the Secretary of State himself will decide how much each council needs to spend. His decisions could make hundreds of pounds of difference to the poll tax to be paid by almost every adult. That is what the system provides for.

The Opposition have a copy of the Government's working documents. For instance, one set of figures in front of the Secretary of State tells him that Birmingham needs to spend £627 million to provide a standard level of finance--to the Government's standards, that is. However, another figure tells the Secretary of State that Birmingham needs to spend £750 million to provide that same standard level. An analysis of the figures shows that the different formulae available for the Secretary of State to choose from could add over £3 a week to the poll tax for everyone in Birmingham. In almost every local authority, the situation and the effect are the same.

In Westminster, for example, the Secretary of State's choices could influence the poll tax by as much as £4.76 a week, in Kensington and Chelsea by £4.41 a week, in Wandsworth by about £3.70 a week, in Portsmouth by £2.20 a week, in Manchester by £3.40 a week, in Newcastle by £2.70 a week, and in Newham by as much as £5.40 a week. That is the Secretary of State's latitude, in addition to his 75 per cent. control, in determining exactly how much poll tax will be paid by people in towns and cities. It is nonsense to claim that that increases accountability and leaves more decision taking for local government. It does exactly the opposite.

The figures make a mockery of the Government's claims that high levels of poll tax are due to inefficiency or high spending. They demolish the argument that the poll tax will increase local accountability. Hundreds of pounds per person per year can be added to councils' bills by the Government and the figures that they decide to put into their computers.

From April 1990, Tory Ministers will control more than 75 per cent. of all local government income, an unprecedented state not only in Britain but in any western democracy. The Government's documents expose their determination to exercise even greater control over local government revenue raising. They show that the biggest influence on poll tax bills will be central Government policies and decisions, not local authority decisions taken in the communities. For the increasingly large number of Tory Members who are now panicking, there is more bad news on the way. Last February, the Government announced their proposal for phasing in the combined effects of the nationalisation of business rate poundages and the first revaluation since 1973. Increases in business rate bills are planned to be restricted to 20 per cent. per annum plus inflation. Businesses gaining from the changes will have their benefits delayed. It all sounds remarkably like poll tax safety nets, and will have the same political effect when Tory Members and those business people active in local Conservative associations wake up to what is happening. An increase of 20 per cent. per annum plus inflation means rates bills going up by three times in five years.

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Even five years of safety nets will not lead to the full introduction of the new business rate arrangement. Businesses in Tory areas in the south will find their poundages rising hugely. Government figures included with the poll tax calculations published on 19 July show that Kensington and Chelsea's business rate poundage will rise by 111.4 per cent., Wandsworth's by 60 per cent., Westminster's by 51 per cent., Redbridge's by 46 per cent., Bromley's by 43 per cent. and South Herefordshire's by 23 per cent. The revaluation will push up the figures even further. The combined effect of national business tax and revaluation in, for example, Kensington and Chelsea will have astronomical implications for the business rates that people will be expected to pay.

The Government are trying to cover up that unpalatable arithmetic. The new rateable values for every individual property must be deposited by the Inland Revenue with charging authorities by 31 December--yet the first that businesses will know about them, unless they or their advisers track them down in the town halls, will be when they receive the bills in March 1990. The Government hope that ratepayers will look only at the amount payable, restricted to an increase of 20 per cent. plus inflation, and not the eventual liability shown by the rateable value. Most business people will soon see through that. If Tory Members think that they are in trouble now because of the poll tax, let them wait until the facts of the new business tax come out.

A number of Conservative Members have asked about Labour party policy. For the expenditure of a modest 75p and a letter to Walworth road, they can have a copy of our document. We intend to introduce a modern property tax based on the capital value of a property, with up to 100 per cent. rebates for low-income families or those least able to pay ; we will reduce the proportion of local taxes raised through property tax ; we will dedicate an element of the income tax to local government ; we will restore business rates as a local tax ; we will return meaningful purpose to the statutory consultation between local authorities and local businesses ; we will end the ever-changing and chaotic restrictions, penalties and cuts ; and we will have annual elections for a part of every local authority.

That will provide for a local taxation system that is genuinely fair because it is directly related to the ability to pay. It will end the need for dramatic increases in local tax bills. It will restore the right of local people and their councillors to govern their communities and raise revenue free from central control. It will take account of the differences in resources of authorities in different parts of the country.

Mr. John Heddle (Mid-Staffordshire) : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Cunningham : No.

The Cirencester besom has been replaced by the modern Tory technological broom, from arid Silk Cut dry to Blue Chip glistening wet. The Secretary of State comes with a record of rebelling against cuts in employment and housing benefit, being in favour of aid to the poorest and of incomes policy, and is described as the heir to the tradition of Macmillan and Macleod.

Mr. Heddle rose--

Dr. Cunningham : The Secretary of State was co-author of the pamphlet by the Blue Chip Group, which argued

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that the Prime Minister's economic policies were socially divisive and politically unworkable. He was vice-president of the Tory Reform Group. He has now been promoted to patron of the Tory Reform Group, the body which published a paper on the poll tax which said : "The Government's case for the community charge rests, above all, on achieving proper accountability. Yet this is precisely where it fails."

It said that the poll tax

"shows every sign of being an administrative nightmare" and that the uniform business rate

"will result in a massive increase in the centralisation of power."

Those are the views of the Tory Reform Group, of which we learn that the right hon. Gentleman is no longer a mere vice-president but a patron.

What has changed? Have his views changed, have the views of the Tory Reform Group changed, or have the Prime Minister's policies changed? If he was asked for his view yesterday, did he say with candour--candour which we know that he has in abundance--"Margaret, we have got it about as wrong as possible"? Or was it "as you were" with the policy?

The Secretary of State's problem is that the profoundly detested policies that he has inherited are the Prime Minister's own ideas. The policies have exceeded their shelf life. The ideas have passed their sell-by date and the British people will no longer buy them. The flat-rate poll tax is a scandal which divides Britain from the rest of Europe and every other western democracy. The poll tax is unique to Britain ; no other country in Europe has a tax that is so harsh, unfair and intrusive. The 24th amendment to the constitution of the United States of America rules out any connection between poll tax and citizenship. Churches, charities, voluntary organisations, businesses and many--

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield) : We do not live in America. We live here.

Dr. Cunningham : Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman does live here. - -leading Tories have all condemned the poll tax proposals, and the Labour party's protest campaign has informed and focused the overwhelming opposition of the British people.

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