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Mr. Gow : Yesterday the President of Romania made a speech in Bucharest which lasted for six hours and which was punctuated by 67 standing ovations. I am thankful that I was not asked to move a vote of thanks to him, but it has been an honour to have been asked to make this speech. It will be a matter of relief to the House to know that there is no precedent for the mover of the Loyal Address being asked to do so on a subsequent occasion.
Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South) : It is a great pleasure to second the motion, but that pleasure is tempered by the problem that I face-- following the superb speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). If this were the palace of varieties and not the Palace of Westminster, I would be the warm-up artiste and my hon. Friend the main attraction.
I was surprised to be chosen for this task. The TV Times, which, I think, must be required reading for all of us, carried an article in advance of today's proceedings which was written, one will not be surprised to hear, by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley). In that article, entitled "The 10 MPs to watch", he rightly included my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne. Equally rightly, he did not include me.
My television experience since I was elected is almost non-existent. I have appeared only twice. The first
Column 10occasion was when the producer of the programme mistakenly thought that I was Ronnie Corbett. The second was when it was revealed that there were six hon. Members, including myself, who were freemasons. Following that programme, Sir Clement Freud, who is now an occasional television critic for The Times --hon. Members may recall that before 1987, Sir Clement was an occasional Member of this House-- [Interruption.]
"Whilst it is possibly a coincidence, the six named Backbenchers are all Conservatives, all of small stature physically, all with limited hopes when it comes to promotion, and they are not even what Mrs. Thatcher calls one of us'."
However, it would be misleading to leave the House with the impression that I had never appeared on television before I was elected. I can now reveal to hon. Members that there were two such occasions which, oddly enough, were a preparation for my future career here. The first was when I was a contestant on the Nicholas Parsons programme "Sale of the Century". What better training ground could there be for influencing my support for the Government's privatisation policy?
I am conscious that when I sit down in a few moments, the long-awaited parliamentary and television confrontation between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will take place. The Leader of the Opposition and I have three things in common. First, we both have a Welsh grandmother although not, I hasten to assure my hon. Friends, the same one. Secondly, we have the same colour hair, although, as the cameras will shortly reveal, his hair is rather more sparse than mine. Thirdly, we both love and honour the red rose, although for him it is a fading and wilting variety of the bloom, whereas for me it is the old and historic red rose of Lancashire.
My Lancashire constituents will be very proud that their Member of Parliament has been chosen to make this speech today. Bury, South has three distinct townships : Prestwich and Whitefield, which are vibrant communities containing some of the most pleasing residential areas in Greater Manchester, and Radcliffe, an old mill town whose engineering and paper industries combine well with Lowryesque vistas and the beautiful village of Ainsworth. My constituents come from all faiths and backgrounds and they are, as they say in Lancashire, the salt of the earth. I am very proud to represent them here today. My constituents are supported by two great traditions, one of which looks north to Bury, for which I share the representation with my good and hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt), whom I am delighted to see in his place. Bury was the birthplace of the great Conservative statesman Sir Robert Peel, and is the home of the black pudding and a football club which is well on the way to promotion. The other tradition looks south to Manchester--the city now campaigning to host the 1996 Olympic games--where many of my constituents were born and where many still work. It is a cause of great satisfaction that, since the last general election, thanks to the successful policies of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and her Government, unemployment-- [Interruption.]
Column 11Mr. Sumberg : Since the last general election, unemployment in my constituency has nearly been halved--from 4,052 to 2,194. That is still too high, but my constituents have learnt the hard and bitter lesson from the experiences in government of one of my most distinguished constituents--the former Labour Cabinet Minister, Lord Joel Barnett--and they know that inflation is the mother and father of unemployment. That is why I warmly welcome the Government's determination, as reiterated in the Queen's Speech, to defeat the scourge of inflation, because it is upon that defeat that the prosperity and well-being of all my constituents depends. Many will also welcome the Government's commitment to a greener Britain. For us in the north-west of England, our countryside and green fields are essential to our existence. The aim of making Britain greener is not, for my constituents, a technical exercise or a media hype ; it goes to the core and heart of their quality of life.
One final aspect of the Gracious Speech that I warmly welcome is the reform of our legal system. I know that convention prevents me, as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney-General, who is held in the highest regard by the whole House, from commenting in detail on these matters. Suffice it to say that I am sure that we are moving in the right direction for the benefit of both the public and clients.
When I was thinking about what I wanted to say this afternoon, I followed the advice of the Patronage Secretary--better known outside this place as the Chief Whip--who told me to read the seconding speeches that had been made over the years. The research revealed that during the last Parliament two other Members of the class of 1983 with similar majorities to mine seconded the Loyal Address. At the subsequent general election, both lost their seats. The Patronage Secretary is the model of kindness and courtesy and, although I must tell him that I got his message loud and clear, the return to the House of my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris), who was one of those seconders, is proof that there is political life after political death.
Our political lives are being lived at the most exciting and dramatic of times. Recent events in Germany and eastern Europe have shown that history is a constantly moving pattern and that nothing is set in concrete--either literally or metaphorically. Over the past few days' events at the Berlin wall we have all remembered the words of John Kennedy-- [Interruption.] That is the wrong quotation. Kennedy said :
"Some men see things as they are and ask why--let us dream of things that never were and ask why not."
It is because I believe that the programme revealed in the Gracious Speech is in accordance with the spirit of that message that I have no hesitation in commending it to the House.
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) referred to Sir Clement Freud. I remember Sir Clement Freud when he was a Member of this House. I never agreed with him politically and I had many arguments with him. However, knowing that our proceedings are now televised, was it right for the hon. Member for Bury, South-- [Interruption.] Was it right for him to use the occasion to make a snide remark about someone who is no longer a Member of the House and who in fact put in his time here? Although I disagreed with
Column 12Sir Clement Freud politically, he was a good Member of Parliament. I trust that we will not hear that sort of thing in future.
Mr. Speaker : Even before our proceedings were televised, hon. Members will have heard me say that we have freedom of speech in the House and every hon. Member must take responsibility for what he says here.
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn) : For those who may be uninitiated in these matters, it is one of the most pleasurable customs of the House that the Leader of the Opposition is allowed on this occasion to pay compliments to the movers and seconders of the Loyal Address. I do that now with my usual passion and enthusiasm, particularly after the usual sparkling performance of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). He gripped the House.
As I looked across the Chamber at the hon. Member for Eastbourne he struck me as one of our number who, like me, has not presented himself at a television charm school for grooming. The only concession that I have made in that direction--I suspect that the hon. Member for Eastbourne is much the same--is to accept a kind and generous offer made to my by one of my hon. and learned Friends who shall remain anonymous. I have been given something called papier poudre which looks to me like cerebral blotting papers which apparently are for mopping one's head. After his ordeal in moving the Loyal Address, I should be more than happy in the most fraternal spirit to pass this paper to the hon. Member for Eastbourne should he require it.
The hon. Member for Eastbourne needs no tuition in charm, gentility or subtlety. I am certain that all those qualities earned for him the not unaffectionate title of supergrass while he worked for the Prime Minister as her Parliamentary Private Secretary. I suppose that that is better than supericeberg.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Eastbourne will suffer no difficulties in this new era of televised democracy from the fact that, like me, he suffers from a certain tonsorial deficiency. He need not worry about that. He need only look along the Government Front Bench to see the deputy Prime Minister, the chairman of the Conservative party, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Home Secretary and the Transport Secretary to be absolutely assured that luxuriant grey hair is not necessarily evidence of wisdom. The hon. Member for Eastbourne has so many talents that I have been tempted from time to time to try to convert him, provide him with elocution lessons and a different pair of glasses so that he could double the output of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, to whom the hon. Member for Eastbourne bears much more than a passing resemblance. The hon. Gentleman's speech was a considerable delight--I mean that, of course, in all respects other than political. Hon. Members heard also from the hon. Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg), who is certainly an earnest Member of Parliament and who has shown not inconsiderable courage. To his considerable credit, at the
Column 13time of the 1983 general election he called upon Conservatives in Stockton not to vote for the ex-National Front man, who was the Conservative candidate. Everyone would acknowledge the courage that that took, and would strongly support the hon. Gentleman. I know the hon. Gentleman's wife, Carolyn, who is an extremely active supporter of the campaign for Soviet Jewry, and we have had mutually productive encounters in the course of securing precisely that liberty which, in many ways, is rightly celebrated in today's Queen's Speech. The hon. Member for Bury, South is also star-touched. Not only is he the consultant for the Northern Independent Bookmakers Association--an office of some distinction and considerable advantage, I should imagine--but-- [Interruption.] I will leave the Prime Minister to talk to Brian Walden ; it is more entertaining. The hon. Member for Bury, South shares his birthday with Charlie Watts, the drummer of the Rolling Stones. Perhaps after the next election, as the hon. Gentleman graciously hinted, he might become something of a rolling stone. Until then, we shall continue to be informed and delighted by his contributions.
In the Queen's Speech there are proposals, such as those for combating crime and pursuing co-operation with the police forces of other countries, which we shall examine with the aim of supporting. Some other forthcoming Bills, such as those on food safety, environmental protection, and the control of pollution and waste will enjoy our interest in our efforts to try to strengthen that legislation. However, there are other measures that we shall oppose root and branch.
We shall employ a special hostility against the Bill by which the Government will try to implement what they call their reforms of the National Health Service. We shall oppose their plans because, like the great majority of the British people, we know that such proposals will not reform the NHS. They will deform it into a creature of competition-- competition between doctors, competition between hospitals, and competition between health authorities, which has no place in a national health system that is trusted and respected by those who work in it and use it--that is to say by the great majority of the British people--because they understand that its motive is service and not profit. The Government do not understand that motive, and they will pay for their ignorance and the contempt that they have shown to doctors, nurses and patients who, over the months since the publication of the Government's proposals, have sought to inform the Government about the realities of a National Health Service which so many distinguished members of the Cabinet fail to use.
In the Queen's Speech we were told that the Government will continue to pursue policies designed to reduce inflation, foster economic growth and promote enterprise and employment. Those phrases have a certain ring of familiarity about them. Indeed, they echo the words that we heard last year, when the Government pledged to pursue policies designed--that was the word again--to bear down on inflation, promote enterprise and foster output and employment. That was the design for this year, the year in which the balance of payments deficit went up to £20 billion, which is 50 per cent. more than the Government's estimate. It has also been a year in which the inflation rate reached over 7 per cent.--50 per cent. higher than the Government had estimated this time last
Column 14year. There has been an increase in output of 2 per cent.--50 per cent. lower than the Government estimated last year.
It was not the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who made those estimates. He was only the Chief Secretary to the Treasury at the time and thus conceivably out of these things or at least away from the liabilities. Those were the forecasts made by the last Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson), whom I am delighted to see in his place and, who as we clearly recall was eventually driven by frustration at the conduct of affairs to resign his position as the second most important person in the Administration--second only to Sir Alan Walters. Still, despite the right hon. Gentleman's departure--
Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's courtesy in giving way. This is a wonderful opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman to demonstrate not only to the House, but to the nation, whether he understands the finer details of economic policy. Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore tell the House which of the Prime Minister's conditions for joining the European monetary system he agrees with and which one he disagrees with, and why?
Mr. Kinnock : By coincidence, I am coming to that point and can address myself precisely to the question that the hon. Gentleman has raised, in my own time and in the order of my speech. I assure him that I shall do so.
The former Chancellor has gone, but, of course, the policies remain. One might have thought that any design team with such a record of failure would at least have gone back to the drawing board--but not this Government, not this "team", as the chairman of the Conservative party used to like to call them. For the Government, the design faults simply do not exist. We were told by the former Chancellor last year that rising inflation was a "blip" and 20 months ago the Prime Minister told us that the huge balance of payments deficit was a "freak". Just last week the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, to whom I listen avidly on the radio, was saying that the reduction in growth that we shall experience throughout 1990 was just taking a "necessary pause". So there is no need for anyone to worry--the present conditions are only momentary problems. Of course, they lasted most of 1988 and they have lasted the whole of 1989--and according to the Chancellor's statement last week we are in for another "difficult" year, as he put it, in 1990--but they are still only temporary problems.
I hope that the Chancellor is right. I hope, together with many mortgage- paying Members of the House and every mortgage-paying member of the nation, that the Chancellor is absolutely right and not as wildly wrong in his forecasts as his predecessor was. However, the portents are not good because the present Chancellor, like the last Chancellor and the Prime Minister, still goes on telling us that the economy is "fundamentally strong", that there is "underlying strength" in the economy and that there is great "confidence". When I hear that claim, I have to ask why, if there is such an abundance of confidence, we in Britain have to pay 15 per cent. interest rates in order to buy that confidence?
As for underlying strengths, one has only to look at what has happened to our economy in the 10 oil-rich years
Column 15of this Government. We see an economy suffering from chronic traffic congestion, delays and danger, as a result of systemic and sustained under-funding. We have chronic skill shortages which generate alarm everywhere, including in the Confederation of British Industry. We have an economy with a falling share of world trade in manufactured goods, an economy where bankruptcies have risen by over 40 per cent. this year, but still the Chancellor says that interest rates will have to stay high enough for long enough--high enough for long enough for what? High enough and long enough to push back businesses to where they were in the early part of the 1980s. What a way to start the 1990s.
There are many phrases to describe an economy in this condition, but "underlying strengths" and "fundamentally strong" are not such phrases. In any case, if our economy is as fundamentally strong as the Government continually claim, why are more people homeless? Why are more people in poverty? Why do Britain's pensioners have a lower state pension than their contemporaries in every major European Economic Community country? Why, if there is fundamental strength in the economy, should child benefit be frozen? Why, if the economy is fundamentally strong, do we have an education system with the highest drop-out rate of all the major European Community countries? Why do we have a lower level of publicly provided child care than any comparable country? Why are our children being sent home from school because there are not enough teachers to teach them in the classroom? In this fundamentally strong economy, why does the Queen's Speech bring forward proposals for student finances that will make access to higher education a matter of debt and default for so many young people? Could not a fundamentally strong economy afford to pay for a proper high speed rail link to the Channel tunnel instead of looking around to see whether the French railways will pay for it? Surely, the Government of a fundamentally strong economy would pay war widows better pensions. Surely they would urgently compensate haemophiliacs who have contracted the HIV virus. Surely, the Government of a fundamentally strong country would at least have sufficient confidence in their case to let the ambulance personnel go to arbitration. That would be a sign of a fundamental strength. I do not ask the Government to do all the things that I mentioned at once. I simply ask them to do some of them. At present, they are doing none of them.
Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood) : When my right hon. Friend refers to the people of eastern Europe and our delight that they have been released from aging authoritarian leaders-- [Hon. Members :-- "Socialists."] They have been released from-- [Hon. Members :-- "Socialism."] Mr. Speaker, could you make them behave, please?
Ms. Short : We delight that the people of eastern Europe have been released from the rule of aging authoritarian leaders, who have made a mess of their economies. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the British people are entitled to the same release?
Mr. Kinnock : There will not be much perestroika or glasnost in Downing street. Hon. Members who shouted "Socialism" at my hon. Friend did so as though it equated with what has existed and still exists too extensively in eastern Europe. If they think that what has been practised in eastern Europe is Socialism, Chile is all that capitalism has to offer. They make stupid exaggerations and distortions which are fast becoming their stock in trade. I shall come to the question of change in eastern Europe later, but it is interesting to see the response of the Conservative party to that question, which I should have thought would substantially unite the House.
Fundamental strength has to be built. It does not arrive by accident. It must be carefully and continuously constructed. The Government have not been about that business. We shall have fundamental strength only if we build strong foundations. A modern economy can be fundamentally strong only if there is proper sustained commitment to education and training, research and development, science and transport and new techniques and technologies. That commitment has not been made by the Government in the past 10 years.
Mr. Kinnock : If the hon. Gentleman's only estimate of strength is profitability and investment, I advise him to do two things. First, he should go to the conference of the Confederation of British Industry in Harrogate and ask the delegates there for their estimate of transport and training infrastructure and of the Government's support for research and development. The CBI does not hold out any begging bowls but it comprehends a basic fact of modern economic life. It requires partnership between Governments and business to build fundamental strength.
Secondly, if it is investment that interests the hon. Gentleman, I invite him to look at the glorious technicolour of the Financial Times of last Thursday morning. He will see from an economics don using the Government's figures a close analysis of precisely what has been happening to our investment, particularly manufacturing investment, the rate of advance of which is lower than that of any competitor in the modern world.
The Government have not made that form of commitment. The evidence exists not just in the figures, but in daily witness. Managers, workers and, indeed, the general public, because of the crushing of so much British productive capacity at the beginning of this decade and the way in which the Government have stimulated dependence on imports in the rest of the decade, know that they are suffering as a consequence of the Government's conduct of affairs.
Our competitors have been committed to building fundamental strength. They have done so without the bonanza of oil wealth and without selling great national assets such as water, electricity and gas. Indeed, they are buying the assets that the Government are selling from the British people. They have achieved construction and development without any blipping, freaking or pausing. They have achieved that because they believe in preparing for the future. Germany, Italy and France have achieved that because they know that it is the task of modern
Column 17government to work in partnership with the producers and the people to build fundamental strength. Why is that not shared in our country?
There is widespread fear that because the Government have not made a proper investment in the 1980s, we shall be left behind in the 1990s. That feeling becomes all the more acute as we approach 1992 and, as the Queen's Speech reminds us, the completion of the single market of the European Community. That change, as the Prime Minister knows, is inescapable. We have no choice whether to face it or not. Our only choice is whether to participate constructively in order strongly to influence the change or to be dragged along behind it, as we are being dragged along behind the European monetary system. We are in it, but not of it. The result is that we bear all the pressures of having a currency measured against the deutschmark, without having any of the benefits of stability and credibility for the currency that could be secured by participation in the exchange rate mechanism. I do not counsel that we go in without conditions--[ Hon. Members :-- "Ah."] Anybody who joined without conditions would be stupid and a paid -up member of the Liberal party. It is essential to negotiate proper conditions and we should negotiate them now. I was asked which of the conditions laid down by the Prime Minister I could not concur with. The first is the idea that we should secure by interest rate pressure a reduction in the British rate of inflation to the European average before joining. When the Prime Minister makes that stipulation it is her way of saying, "Never". A second condition is the one that she started to develop as she was making lists--apparently without rehearsal with her Cabinet colleagues--on the Brian Walden programme. She wants all our EC competitors to abandon all forms of industrial subsidy. She is saying to them, "We want you to share our supply side weakness." While there may be withdrawals and reductions in subsidy they will not break the partnership between democratic Governments, Conservative and Socialist, and industries, especially when the record shows that it gives them a huge balance of payments surplus with this country.
The balance of payments surplus is £8 billion for the Federal Republic, £2 billion for Italy and £1.5 billion for France. We have even got a balance of payments deficit with the East Germans.
Mr. Kinnock : Yes, I fully comprehend that. I have a simple question for the hon. Gentleman, which he might like to address to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister-- [Interruption.] It is certain to intrigue the hon. Gentleman. If we and our partners are bonded by the aforesaid treaty, why does the Prime Minister have to make a condition out of getting rid of those subsidies? Surely in the natural progress of events, under the great machine that will secure everything, the elimination of those subsidies will take place. If that does not happen, our partners will be guilty of trying to negotiate conditions for
Column 18their future within the European Community. I counsel that we do the same thing with the same strength and the same determination to get the same square deal.
Mr. Kinnock : Not at all. There are conditions with which the hon. Gentleman is familiar. The Federal Republic of Germany has earned a substantial part of its current account surplus from our economy and those of many other EC partners. The Germans have a close vested interest in a Community machinery which will recycle their surplus. That machinery will work to our advantage, it is true, but it will most certainly provide them with the means of sustained and balanced growth and that is in the interests of every person within the EC. [Interruption.] My hon. Friends should show patience towards the Conservative party--I am talking about intelligent co-operation, but the Conservatives understand neither concept.
The result of the way in which we are being dragged along-- Mr. William Cash (Stafford) rose --
Mr. Tim Smith (Beaconsfield) rose --
Mr. Kinnock : I have given way more often than anyone else who has opened for the Opposition on the Queen's Speech. I am sure that you Mr. Speaker, will forgive me, if I do not give way again, as I must get on with my speech because the Prime Minister and other hon. Members will want to speak. I hope that the hon. Gentlemen will forgive me for not giving way, but I have already done so several times.
As a result of getting all the disadvantages of being dragged along and none of the advantages of stability and credibility for our currency we must negotiate entry into the exchange rate mechanism with deliberation and on the basis of sensible conditions. Doubtless the Prime Minister would describe that approach, our joint and broadly-defined position, as being a readiness to sacrifice what she calls "sovereignty." I am far from alone in advocating our entry to the EMS and I understand that anything up to 60 per cent. of Conservative Members of Parliament broadly believe that it would be desirable and useful for us to participate in the EMS.
Sovereignty--self-power, autonomy, independence--is a fine thing for a democratic Government who want to serve their people and their particular interests. It is a useful and necessary implement. But what sovereignty were the Government exercising on 5 October? When the Cabinet met that Thursday morning, it had to wait to see what the directors of the Bundesbank meeting in Frankfurt would do with their interest rates before our Cabinet in Downing street could decide what it was going to do to our interest rates. On that day our sovereignty lasted for about half an hour, from 1.30 pm when the Bundesbank put its interest rates to about 2 pm when the Government put up our interest rates to 15 per cent. We got no advantage from the way in which the Government tried to manage our affairs then. We had about as much sovereignty as Hans Andersen's vain emperor had clothes. All countries are proud of their sovereignty. Other EC countries naturally cherish it, but their Governments do
Column 19not confuse sovereignty with vanity. That is not because they are models of humility. No one could accuse the French and German Governments of humility--that is the last virtue of which they are guilty--but they understand the nature of modern sovereignty. They take the view that in our times sovereignty is, as a right hon. and learned Member of this House put it :
"a form of influence that can be multiplied and maximised by active engagement with others--and not something to be guarded jealously by keeping one's distance from the rest That is the way towards a future where, in sharing power with others, we count for more in the world. The alternative would involve becoming, and being regarded as, increasingly marginal to the decisions that matter. Isolation is not an option."
For that assessment of modern sovereignty--for that sabotage of the Prime Minister's position--I am indebted to the deputy Prime Minister and the speech that he made two weeks ago in Bath. The speech was made not in the bath--nothing so private--but in full public gaze, in the pumproom, to the Anglo-Spanish conference, and I believe that there were shouts of "Ole ."
Isolation, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman correctly said, is not an option. How true, and how unacceptable that must be to the Prime Minister, who says to the Commonwealth conference that if it is 48 against one, "I feel sorry for the 48" and who says to the European summit when it is 11 to one, "I feel sorry for the 11." From what we hear from the United States Secretary of State for Defence over the weekend, the Prime Minister may soon be saying to our NATO allies that she feels sorry for the other 15. When I hear the Prime Minister feeling sorry for the rest of the world, I understand why she has taken to calling herself "we"--it is less lonely.
That expression of view by Defence Secretary Cheney, like the expression by President Bush when he visited the Federal Republic earlier this year and spoke of the Germans as "partners in leadership", is evidence of the way in which the world is changing and how, with care and caution and with a strong sense of responsibility, people are ready to change with it. That is the only frame of mind which equips us to deal with the tumultuous and joyous events of the last 10 days in East Germany and what results from them.
Like every democrat, I greet with joy and optimism the destruction of the wall, of the wire and of the totalitarianism that built them. On 13 August 1961 I was in north-west Germany staying with a family who had come six years earlier from Dresden in East Germany. Hon. Members can imagine how sombre and anxious those people were--then and for many weeks after--about the fate of their loved ones in the east of Germany.
As I saw the wall coming down, I heard a young woman saying to a television journalist, "I went over and then I came back. I went over again and now I am back again. I am going back again and I am coming back here again. Why am I doing that? Because I can." As I listened to that, I felt that it was one of the greatest speeches of freedom that I had ever heard. I am sure that people everywhere, in all the countries of the free world, felt exactly the same.
While we are all filled with the same feeling when we see the people of Prague--youngsters and veterans of 1968--in their hundreds of thousands, we understand the great opportunities that are now opening up for a different quality of relationship between the peoples of our
Column 20continent. We also know that it is essential to deal with these huge changes with care and co-operation. On these Benches--and, I believe, on the Government Benches--there is a common desire for progress with stability. There are many ways of reinforcing the advance that must take place. The measures include economic assistance and co-operation, political, cultural--
Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset, West) : When the right hon. Gentleman looks back over the last six or seven years, does he believe that his role in 1983 played any part in the events that we are now witnessing in East Europe?
Mr. Kinnock : I have conscientiously worked, as I am sure that the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Sir J. Spicer) has, for increased security and stability across this continent all my life, and I shall continue so to do. If the hon. Gentleman is unaware of the opportunities that exist and does not want to use them properly, he is turning his eyes away not just from the past and its conflicts, but from the future and its opportunities.
Mr. Kinnock : The hon. Gentleman shouts out words that could cause his dismissal from this Chamber. I shall take no notice of them but simply say that if he, his arguments and character are so weak, I hold him in contempt.
As I have said, there are many ways of reinforcing the advance that we all want to see. They include economic assistance and co-operation, political, cultural and scientific exchange, which must take place over a broad front, and placing a continual focus on civil and human rights. We must take that opportunity as a country and work with our partners in the European Community towards those objectives. In addition, NATO and the Warsaw pact both have an essential function as agencies, not only for armed security but for achieving and managing verifiable agreements of mutual disarmament. If the Government want to encourage reform in the Soviet Union, as they say in the Queen's Speech--I am sure that they do because it is important for the Soviet Union and for wide, sure and stable change in the East--it is essential that they actively foster negotiated disarmament. If they wish to help Mikhail Gorbachev they should take this means of enabling him to transfer precious resources of money, technology and skill away from the military machine and towards civil production and consumption. The people of the Warsaw pact-- Mr. James Sillars (Glasgow, Govan) rose --
The people of the Warsaw pact countries have yearned for the sweet taste of liberty, but even that can turn sour unless it brings with it sufficiency and at least the clear prospect of prosperity and choice. That is why we must help in the change--not to determine the fate of others, but to assist them in gaining their own emancipation. It is the responsibility of those of us who are free to nourish the freedom of others. I know that the Prime Minister agrees with that. That is why I say that if she wants the reforms to succeed and become irreversible, she should work willingly with others in NATO to secure negotiated reductions in conventional forces and the negotiated removal of all short-range nuclear weapons.
Column 21Mr. Sillars rose --
I also ask the Prime Minister to reconsider her approach to change in the Community of west Europe and change in the countries of eastern Europe. A couple of days ago she said :
"It really would be very ironic if, while we insist that Eastern Europe moves to full democracy and full human rights, that we take the heart of Parliamentary control out of democratic accountability."
There will be many arguments in this House and elsewhere about the pace and direction of change in the European Community. Federal union will find few friends among the Opposition. For the Prime Minister to try to equate the efforts of any of the democracies of western Europe with the system in the east of Europe, which is collapsing under the weight of its own inefficiency, injustice and inhumanity, is offensively absurd. The Prime Minister should change her attitude, and change it now, because it helps no one--least of all our country. As your generation, Mr. Speaker, has every cause to know, before 1939 there were many Europes. Since 1945 there have been two Europes, bitterly divided. Now there are the beginnings of the possibility that there can be one Europe--a continent with borders but without barriers. If our generation can help to achieve that with security, stability and guarantees of peace and liberty, we must make every effort to do so. We must do so for the sake of the younger generations who come behind us in this continent and to repay our debt to people like yourself, Mr. Speaker, who fought so that we could have a choice about these matters.
Several Hon. Members rose --
This is the last Queen's Speech of the 1980s. Chief among its purposes should have been that of helping the British people to gather strength to deal with the challenges and opportunities of the 1990s. At best, it evades that purpose and at worst it directly contradicts it. The Government have ruled the 1980s and have made it a decade of deficit, division and debt. They are out of touch, they are running out of time, and they will soon be out of power. 3.45 pm
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : May I first join the Leader of the Opposition in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) on the way in which he moved the Loyal Address? He did it in his own inimitable style, dry as always--for which I am eternally grateful--and he used his own particular way of showing that even the Opposition have greatly benefited from periods of Conservative prosperity.
When we were in opposition--which I am sure we shall never be again--my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne was the scourge of the then Labour Government and moved private Bill after private Bill. There was a Bill to sell council houses, one to privatise bus companies, one to privatise the National Freight Corporation, one to privatise Cable and Wireless and a Bill to privatise the British Steel Corporation. Of course, privatisation got nowhere with the Labour Government. The Opposition are Socialists and want clause 4--nationalisation of the means of production, distribution
Column 22and exchange. I am happy to say that all the things sought by those private Bills have been achieved under my Administration. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) who seconded the Address. He is well known for winning his seat and retaining it against all the odds and he will do so again. The way that he has truly looked after the rights of his constituents both as a constituency Member and in the House will secure him another return. I was glad that he said that during the lifetime of the Labour Government we learned that inflation is the father and mother of unemployment and that during the lifetime of this Government his constituents have profited enormously from having more jobs from which to choose.
It is of course a happy coincidence that in the year when the Gracious Speech contains important proposals for legal reform, both the proposer and seconder of the Address are distinguished solicitors. As a barrister, I welcome this early start to giving them rights of audience. Both my hon. Friends are to be warmly congratulated.
The Prime Minister : May I assure the hon Gentleman that I shall deal with the economy in a moment? Perhaps he would take his time. In the meantime, I shall deal with some of the things said by the Leader of the Opposition. I had not proposed to deal with them in my speech but I had better deal with them now. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the National Health Service but omitted to point out that for every £1 that Labour spent on the Health Service, this Government have spent £3. He omitted to mention that we achieved economic growth at a faster rate than our European competitors and that under a Conservative Government that resulted in an all-time record for the number of people in jobs.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about traffic congestion, but he omitted to point out that the previous Labour Government had to cut the amount spent on motorways and trunk roads. Of course they did ; they ran the economy so badly.
The right hon. Gentleman then dealt with pensions. He omitted to say that pension rights and the way in which pensions are managed in the EC are very different from here. Moreover, he omitted to point out that it was a Labour Government who were unable to honour a pledge to protect pensions against rising prices. Rising prices would have required a 20 per cent. increase in pensions and they just did not have the money.
When the right hon. Gentleman spoke about teachers he omitted to say that there is a higher proportion of teachers to pupils than ever before in our history. There are also more students in higher education.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about war widows. He omitted to say that this Government freed the war widows' pension from tax altogether and increased the age allowances. They will be increased well beyond the level of