|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 145hope that he will reconsider that remark, because to those of us who rely on sea defences to keep our land together they are anything but a distraction. I welcome their inclusion in the NRA brief. In East Anglia, that is beginning to work, and a powerful start has been made.
In Waveney, our drinking water has always been supplied more cheaply and to a better standard by a private company. In the environment programme, we need to move forward, building on what the Government have already set in place. The announcement last week in the Autumn Statement about the extra money for coastal and sea defence is greatly welcomed.
Mentioning extra money brings me to what Conservative Members want. We want value for money on what is spent on health, care for the elderly and the handicapped, schools and teachers. We want the desirable to be deemed the necessary. In the past decade, we have learnt that desirability must also be affordability.
East Anglia still needs many road developments, not only for economic but for environmental reasons. To bypass Wrentham on the A12 in Waveney would bring untold environmental relief to the village. A third crossing of Lake Lothing on the A12 at Lowestoft before the end of the century would bring economic, stress-reducing and environmental benefit to thousands of my constituents. An integrated policy of transport, including road and rail, for the United Kingdom is needed now, and needed urgently for East Anglia, with the Channel tunnel and 1992 approaching and, in some senses, threatening to leave East Anglia as an island of poorer economic growth, unable to sustain its attractive environment. I regret the absence from this Queen's Speech of any plan to privatise British Rail, in the light of its consistently below-par service level in East Anglia.
As the Confederation of British Industry has said, in all this, business and industry are the solution in part and not the problem in total. Industry is not the environmental bogeyman. Cashing in on cleaning up is one thing. Responding to the rigid hand of legislation is another and codes of practice are still another. Working in partnership with today's climate of opinion for the environmental decade, as a wealth creator, is quite a different matter. Without industry, where do Labour Members and others vying to beef up the Government's programme for the next year believe that the money is to come from? Consumers will inevitably pay more. Most say that they are happy to do so. Many said that they did not want tax cuts, and instead wanted the money to go to the NHS. I wonder how many people sent the money from their tax cuts to the Treasury in 1988?
This is my final sound bite. The bulk of the cost can come only from industry and commerce, trade and a growing economy in the United Kingdom, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment told the CBI this week, without letting civil servants and vested-interested Governments use environmental issues to erect new barriers in Europe.
This Government, and only this Government, can deliver what is needed and wanted. It should be noted that our Prime Minister was the first world leader to put these matters on the world agenda. 4.44 pm
Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North) : So far, the debate on the Loyal Address has shown a bleak prospect for British industry. The smugness of the Prime Minister has been followed by the buffoonery of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
Mr. Hoyle : When I think of the Secretary of State, I can never decide whether he is a gravedigger or an undertaker. Neither of those people lives in the real world in which industry must exist. While the Prime Minister was making her speech yesterday, Inverox Chemicals of Warrington, a highly successful company, was announcing 300 redundancies. These were caused by falling demand and falling profits. That is the world in which industry lives. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry made not one reference to why he gave up the golden share on the last independent quality motor car company--Jaguar.
Mr. Hoyle : Yes, without consultation. The chairman of Jaguar motors, John Egan, when he was giving evidence to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, said that he was told at only quarter to 12 what was to happen. He told the Secretary of State not to do it, not to give up the golden share. We asked Sir John why that had happened, and he told us that we would have to ask the Secretary of State. Surely the golden share is in place to prevent takeover by foreign predators, and the Secretary of State's job is to look for the best deal for Jaguar, for the employees and for the national interest.
Dr. Woodcock : Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Sir John Egan said in London last night that only a few years ago no foreign investor would have paid a penny for Jaguar, but after five or six years of exposure to free market forces every motor car manufacturer in the world would like to own Jaguar?
Mr. Hoyle : I am sorry that I gave way, because the truth is that the idea of Jaguar, with its small size, being able to go it alone is a myth. I think that the hon. Gentleman served on the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, of which I was also a member. He will recall that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee said that Jaguar should stay with Rover because it was making a profit and was doing so because of the investment from the public sector, which had helped to develop a new model. The problem with Jaguar was that it was far too dependent
Column 147on a single market--the American market. It was doubtful whether it would ever, even in the good times, generate enough profit to develop new models.
The issue is where Jaguar should have gone. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not say that it should have gone to General Motors rather than Ford, or that the company should have been run in co-operation with some European companies. I am not saying whether any of these deals would have been better or whether it would have been possible for Jaguar, with money pumped in, to stay on its own. However, I am saying that the Secretary of State abdicated his responsibility.
Industry must look not only at what is said in the Queen's Speech but at what was said in the Autumn Statement. That allows for hardly any growth in manufacturing industry. The real problem is that high interest rates will remain. Tory Members boast about record investment levels, but they are a record from a much smaller industrial base, because almost 30 per cent. of industry was destroyed between 1979 and 1982. Those high interest levels will mean a cut in investment.
Nor did the Secretary of State say anything about takeover bids and what should be done about them. Manufacturing industry and service industries have to face foreign predators. At the moment Pearl Assurance plc is faced with an Australian takeover bid, but it could not make a reverse takeover bid because that is not allowed in Australia. No British insurance company would find it easy to take over a French, Italian or German insurance company, yet all our insurance companies are up for grabs.
As I said at the weekend, Australian Mutual Provident will have to pay £114 million in interest charges on the loan, but Pearl made only £60 million in profits last year. Where will the money come from? Will there be a sale of assets, or will the policyholders suffer? Something has to give.
Pearl is not alone. Other insurance companies are facing takeover bids, and nearly all of them could be at the mercy of predators from Australia, America, Japan and elsewhere. Insurance companies are the long-term investors we need for manufacturing industry. That is the state of affairs in the real world.
I should have thought that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry would have mentioned the problems of the environment. Perhaps the Secretary of State for the Environment will say something about them. I expected the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to urge manufacturing industry to produce environmentally friendly products. We could take the lead and we could sell those products to other nations. With the present awareness of the environment, there will be a worldwide demand for environmentally friendly products, and we should encourage industry to go down that path.
I know that student loans will be debated another day, but they will cut the number of scientists and engineers that we produce, particularly those who come from working-class backgrounds. We can ill afford to lose them, because British industry needs good management and it has not been able to attract them. That will remain a problem.
I welcome the green Bill, but I do not think that it goes far enough. In Warrington, we were threatened with the
Column 148import of domestic waste from the United States earlier this year. We already have toxic waste sites, where hospital waste has been dumped illegally. We want tighter controls over the environment and real powers in the Bill, which we hope will be a pointer for the future. With the present hapless Secretary of State for Trade and Industry I shudder to think what will happen. He talked a lot about what the Labour party might do about industry when it came to power. My fear is that there will be no industry left when we come to power, if the Secretary of State remains in office much longer. There were some glum faces behind him. He has not made a good start with Jaguar.
What will the Secretary of State do about the Pearl bid and other takeovers? Will he bring in a Bill to prevent that happening to British industry? I fear not. I do not think that he will do much for industry in the regions either. I think the situation will be bleak and that conditions will get much worse before they get much better. The Government should lower interest rates, because they affect industry and everyone who has a mortgage.
The Government should give a stimulus to industry. When the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) asked the Secretary of State about the space programme, he looked like a startled rabbit, caught in the headlights of a car. He had no idea what he was talking about. Of course he did not know, because the space programme does not fit into the market. It cannot be left to the market, because, if it were, there would be no programme.
I fear that we are sacrificing our future. For example, Vauxhall now buys more components in the United Kingdom--headlight bulbs, bumpers and panels- -but they are not the high-technology components with which the car of the future will be equipped. I fear that we are looking at the short term instead of the long term.
We have to meet the challenge of 1992--the single European market. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) asked my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) about transport, and he was right. We need good transport systems to get our goods to market and to meet that challenge.
I have come to the conclusion that the Government are not interested in training or investment and, unfortu-nately, given the present Secretary of State, they are not interested in industry. 4.57 pm
Mr. Robert Boscawen (Somerton and Frome) : By any standards, growth has been impressive in the United Kingdom during the past seven or eight years. In my part of the world it has been extremely impressive. The evidence is there for the eyes of those who wish to see it. It is quite clear that it is not in the eyes of the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), because he has no desire to see the growth that we have had since the early 1980s.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has the task of taming that growth to ensure that we protect the quality of life in Britain in ways in which we have not protected it before. He asks for new powers to control pollution and waste. I believe that the House will give him those powers, subject to the usual scrutiny. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) said, control of pollution of the environment is in too many hands. Too many agencies
Column 149of Government and local government are involved to put it straight. We need to cut through that and to reorganise. I believe that the House will give my right hon. Friend the measures he wants to do that.
There are no differences between Members when it comes to trying to create a better environment with the growth that we need in the 1990s and beyond. However, there is much more my right hon. Friend can do by using existing powers to control the ravages of some industrial expansion, of transport and of pollution. When it comes down to it, he has considerable powers over planning controls. He needs to provide more certainty that his inspectors will stand out firm against developments outside the boundaries of local plans and the restrictions put on them by local planning authorities.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will confirm soon what his predecessor confirmed a few months ago--that, except in peculiar and overriding circumstances, he will stand firm and refuse appeals when proposed developments would go beyond boundaries which the local plan says should not be crossed. If so, he would do much to maintain the confidence of ordinary people who have no alternative but to live in such areas that business parks, industrial estates, supermarkets and large housing developments will not intrude ever further out of existing towns and villages.
I know that my right hon. Friend is highly sensitive to these matters and highly intelligent. I was his Whip for some nine years and I did not fail to realise that. I do not think that I ever won an argument against him. He knows full well that heavy vehicle traffic in the narrow residential areas that he and I have the honour to represent are a virulent form of pollution that ruins the lives of many people, especially the children who live there. When he is asked to give his consent to new industrial developments, I want him to take such decisions seriously and to ensure that he uses his powers so that one of the major considerations is the amount of heavy traffic that is likely to be generated and the provision of access roads for it.
I recognise that the Government have done much to give the roads programme a higher priority. The Autumn Statement was welcome. It has done much to encourage investment in industrial access to the rail network. My area has benefited substantially from the section 8 grant system of the Railways Act 1974. In the "Guidelines for Aggregates Provision in England and Wales" for 1989, the Department of the Environment states :
"For the economic well-being of the country, it is essential that the construction industry is provided with an adequate and regular supply of the minerals it needs. For the foreseeable future, most of the aggregates required are likely to be supplied from traditional sources Creation of environmental nuisance by aggregates production and distribution cannot totally be avoided, but every reasonable effort must be made to minimise the environmental costs." I know that my right hon. Friend agrees with that. No sensible person could quarrel with it.
The south-west region supplies more than 70 per cent. of the imported stone needed in the south-east region and the London area. That is a vast quantity of stone. More than 10 million tonnes were required in 1985, and more than half of it comes from nine major quarries in my constituency in the east Mendips. That has created an enormous environmental problem. The industry has co-operated well with the assistance of section 8 grants. Some 4 million to 5 million tonnes is exported every year
Column 150by rail but, for compelling operational flexibility at each end of the journey, heavy lorries are the sole means of moving large quantities of aggregate.
The Department of Transport and the local highways department have, step by step, brought some relief, at long last, on trunk and major county roads, to the relief of so many who have suffered so much for so long. My hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic and I have cut ribbons lately. We have been opening bypasses and relief roads. I snipped two tapes on Monday ; my hon. Friend snipped one last month and is to cut another in a few weeks' time. It all sounds very good, but I have to say that, for almost 20 years, I have been calling for such schemes. It still takes far too long to make essential environmental improvements near villages and towns because of our extended planning inquiry system.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will seriously consider doing something to reduce the delay between the announcement of a road or bypass scheme and the ribbon being cut. Access to prime sources of stone on principal routes is still an environmental nightmare in my area. Villages suffer 500 or 600 heavy quarry lorries grinding through their narrow streets day after day, sometimes night after night and recently throughout Sunday. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not rest satisfied and that he will listen to what we have suggested to help to solve this problem in my area.
Growth is essential to Britain and growth will continue, but it must have the willing support of the people it most affects. I trust that my right hon. Friend will always remember that.
Mr. Robert Litherland (Manchester, Central) : The demise of trade and industry under the Government has affected the environment in which my constituents live. Manchester was once a vibrant manufacturing area providing jobs and skills to many thousands of workers. Workers were proud of their crafts and were industrious, but suddenly the axe fell. Like dominoes, firms collapsed one after the other with stunning regularity. In the wake of the decline in manufacturing industry came the inevitable social consequences and the sinister hand of poverty.
I looked to the Queen's Speech for some hope. I noted that it stated that the Government
"will continue to promote enterprise and to facilitate the growth of employment."
The next paragraph states :
"They will maintain firm control of public expenditure so that it continues to fall while allowing further improvements in priority services."
There appears to be a contradiction, especially when I consider the way in which the promotion of enterprise and cuts in public expenditure will affect inner-city areas such as my constituency. In the Prime Minister's mind, the promotion of enterprise is a way of getting into the inner cities, which is her desire. The Government have set up what they describe as regeneration programmes, which mean new office blocks, leisure centres, theme parks and theme pubs. These forms of regeneration may be desirable to developers, or speculators who have an eye for a quick financial kill. It is regrettable that the inhabitants of inner-city areas are not likely to be part of the theme.
The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Boscawen) spoke of the quality of life. I can tell the House
Column 151that accompanying the so-called affluence in the inner cities is abject poverty on the peripheries of cities. Unemployment and the closing down of manufacturing industry has left its scar on people's lives. I am talking of those who will have no choice whether to purchase or rent the new residential properties that have been built. That choice will be confined to the yuppie element. I am talking of those who will not be able to afford leisure facilities. To these people, the new office blocks are meaningless.
Government money is being made available to developers, but its availability to those who are in real need is being cut savagely. For these people the regeneration of the inner cities is a mockery and an insult. Among so much private affluence the Government have created so much public squalor.
We all want new and exciting core cities. Similarly, we all want good quality housing. These developments should not be at the expense of the inner-city poor, and poor they are. Instead of poverty being eradicated, it is on the increase. In Manchester, about 30,000 people live in homes without central heating. There are about 20,000 homes with terrible damp. The Government's public expenditure cuts make essential repairs a luxury. Pre-cast deck-access housing awaits demolition, but the Government will not provide resources to rehouse the tenants and end their misery. Few houses are being built that will provide homes at low-cost rents. We need only relate the appalling state of the building industry to housing needs. The Government talk about enterprise and choice, but the people about whom I am talking cannot choose. They cannot choose where they live, the schools to which they can afford to send their children or the private health care that they can purchase. The only course open to some families is to go short so that they can ensure that the kids are fed.
During a recent visit to a primary school in my constituency I was informed that 80 per cent. of the children required free school meals. Milk was supplied earlier than usual in the morning to ensure that the children obtained some nourishment. I was told that on Monday mornings some children were ravenous. That demonstrated that the conclusion of a report on poverty in Manchester, which suggested that about 80,000 people did not sit down to a roast joint or substantial meal during weekends, was close to the truth. Recently, shops in Manchester selling second-hand clothing or second-hand furniture have mushroomed. Jumble sales are well attended. Unemployment has many spin-offs, and along with poverty there is a loss of dignity. Families break up, there is poor health and there is an increase in suicides. All these consequences place an increasing burden on local authority services-- the very services that suffer when the Government cut local authority expenditure. The official indicator of poverty is the number of people who rely or exist on income support. Whatever the percentages, figures, graphs and statistics, there is nothing like coming face to face with a person who is distressed because he or she cannot eke out an existence from meagre means-tested benefits. I meet these people regularly at every advice bureau in my constituency, as do my colleagues in their constituencies.
That is what the Prime Minister lacks in Finchley. The right hon. Lady should come to the inner-city areas of
Column 152Manchester to feel and taste the poverty. She should spend the night in a cold and damp bedroom. She should queue with my constituents for benefit payments at the local DSS office. She should listen to their pleas when the loan shark calls for his pound of flesh. Perhaps I am wrong. On second thoughts, the Prime Minister would probably congratulate the loan shark on his private enterprise and initiative.
In 1978, 53,000 people received supplementary benefit. At the latest count, in 1987, the number had increased to over 83,000. The slight fall in unemployment in inner Manchester, according to the Government's manipulated and vetted figures, does nothing to alter the fact that the unemployed and their dependants form the largest group that relies on income support.
The sentiments expressed in the Queen's Speech sound hollow and do not represent the true picture of life in the inner cities. The term "maintain a firm control of public expenditure"
should be substituted by a statement that the Government intend to impose further cuts and continue the strangulation of local authorities. It is obvious that if public expenditure is shifted from public services to private pockets, someone must suffer. The sufferers are not the vultures of the City or the grey morning-suited, top-hatted Ascot brigade. Instead, they are the very people who we should be helping by providing them with jobs, decent housing, good education, social services and, above all, good health.
The Queen's Speech states that the Government
"will continue to support policies aimed at alleviating poverty and promoting economic and social progress in developing countries." I can only assume from the indifference of the Prime Minister and the Government generally that they place Manchester and the north-west of England in the same category.
Poverty destroys the entire fabric of the community. If that is the Prime Minister's aim, she is surely achieving it. If we are seeing the fruits of an economic boom, God help the people who I represent if we slide into a recession. The claim of economic success has been exposed as a myth. The bubble has burst. The Prime Minister is being found out. The polls, the Euro elections, local elections and by-elections all tell us that the Government are on their way out. I look forward to the day when we have a Labour Government who will be sincere in their intent to eradicate poverty.
Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test) : I must refute the last part of the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Litherland)-- indeed, I disagreed with about 50 per cent. of what he said. He attempted to denigrate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, someone who has done an enormous amount for this country. She has introduced legislation to curb the excesses of the trade union movement and a series of privatisation Bills that, in every case, has meant the enterprise concerned moving on to greater and better investment. I raise my flag and state my firm support for my right hon. Friend, through thick and thin. The Opposition are trying to denigrate her and give her a personality that she does not have. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) made a disgraceful remark. I do not think that he understood what he was saying, but it was aimed at the
Column 153University of Southampton. Anyone with any knowledge of the matter--and I have as the university is in my constituency --knows that the whole of the experimentation work on fibre optics was created and developed at that university. It is not staggering along on its knees, as the hon. Gentleman tried to suggest ; it has gained another large contract. Fibre optics in the defence sphere is probably the only form of communication in local nuclear warfare. Consequently, it is absolutely essential that the work continues at the university. A vast amount of both private and Government money is being invested in that aspect of high technology.
My hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Boscawen) mentioned snipping tapes on motorways. I have a sad tale to tell because we cannot snip any tapes on the M3. The work has come to a grinding halt, and anyone motoring down to the coast and using the Winchester bypass knows to his cost that at least another hour is added to his journey. The various groups opposed to the M3 have succeeded, for almost 15 years, in preventing a small extension to the motorway. It probably qualifies for the "Guinness Book of Records". They are now saying that the road must go not around St. Margaret's hill, but through the middle of it, which would incur several million pounds of additional expenditure and delay construction even longer.
The port of Southampton needs the basic transport infrastructure of good feeder motorways. It is a thriving port--especially since the abolition of the national dock labour scheme--and it is looking forward to the completion of the M3 before the turn of the century. I should be only too pleased to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome to snip tapes when it is eventually completed. The most potent and important part of the Queen's Speech is the statement
"My Government will continue to attach very great importance to protecting the national and international environment."
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who has the pleasure of sharing Southampton with me, knows that we have had a great deal of trouble with pollution. It is gracefully called sludge, which means that the sewage does not go into the rivers around Southampton, but is stored in huge containers. That is very unpleasant in hot weather. It then has to await a ship that will dump it in the middle of the Solent. That is diametrically opposed to future EEC regulations, so Southern water authority will have to take action against it.
When the matter came to a head some six months ago, I received a communication from a firm in Birmingham--not too far away--that suggested what we could do with our sludge. We must take it seriously. There appear to be four ways to deal with sludge. The first is to dump it in the sea, but that should not be an option. The second is to put it on farming land, which must be absolutely devastating for those living in the surrounding area. The third is to incinerate it, but goodness knows what that does to the greenhouse effect. The fourth is the conversion of sludge to a new oil. All of those options are extremely costly. Incineration would be the most expensive as it would involve the greatest capital costs and extremely high running costs.
We must question how much we are prepared to pay for our water if we are to get rid of such monstrosities as storing sludge through the hot summer months. The
Column 154Opposition may attack the Government about the high costs of water and put leaflets through letter boxes that refer to terrifyingly high prices and so on, but the truth is that it has been caused by neglect over many years. It is quite wrong that for more than 20 years my constituents have had to put up with an awful stench throughout the summer months because Southern water authority did not have the money or the inclination to deal with the problem. We must take it seriously and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will deal with it when we discuss the appropriate Bill in Committee.
One of the most serious political problems that we shall all face is the polluting of the environment, which includes the greenhouse effect and many other forms of pollution.
Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury) : The hon. Gentleman referred to investment in the water industry during the past 10 years. What representations did he make to his Government about increasing investment during that time? Does he accept the basic figures that investment under the last Labour Government averaged £1,254 million per year while under this Government it has averaged only £922 million per year? That is one reason why the hon. Gentleman's constituents have so many problems.
Mr. Hill : It is one of the great sadnesses of this House that the Opposition trot out little statistics, almost as though they are waiting to jump on some unsuspecting Conservative Member. I referred to the past 20 years, but the hon. Lady changed that to the past 10 years, obviously so that only my Government would be involved. She suggested that the last Labour Government did a great deal more than this Government to deal with sewage
Mr. Hill : Yes, but I was referring to the problem of sewage. It is surely a non-political point to refer to the neglect of the sewage problem during, say, the past 50 years. Indeed, I could go back even further and bring in the Liberal Government and say that for 70 years there has been grave neglect not only of our supplies of pure water but in the dumping and disposal of sewage. It is possible that a proportion of the business investment that is to increase by 9.5 per cent. over the next year will be spent on improving pollution disposal plants. I am not as handy with statistics as some lady Opposition Members, but if investment is to increase by 40 per cent. over the next three years, I question how much of it will be spent on improving our balance of payments and how much will be spent--as was suggested by the hon. Member for Manchester, Central--on leisure industries, on office accommodation that is not required, and on highly priced homes in certain parts of the country.
The constituency that I represent--and even I am hardly able to believe this--has a Labour-controlled local authority, which has been handing out planning consents for every little frippery that one can imagine, including what is known as a Noddy railway that will waste another £50 million. That local authority has done nothing to create new jobs that will be long- lasting--though there are plenty of short-term jobs available in the construction industry, in the bulding of prefabricated supermarkets and rows and rows of shops.
Column 155Southampton is experiencing something of an economic recovery is that it has a progressive Labour-controllled city council?
Mr. Hill : I have heard of ostriches, but it is nonsensical to make such comment. The hon. Gentleman may believe that what he says is true but it is absolute nonsense. I could take the hon. Gentleman around Southampton and show him where beautiful buildings have been destroyed and replaced by supermarkets of glass and aluminium. We are knocking down our heritage. I agree with the Prince of Wales--and I hope that he is listening to this debate--that the majority of modern buildings will not last 20 years.
Mr. Morley : Although I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's comments on the way in which planning laws are applied, for I have experienced problems with my local council, does he accept that part of the problem is that the planning regulations were changed by the former Secretary of State for the Environment, the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), in such a way that decisions are usually made in favour of the applicant? The planning laws make it difficult for a local authority, regardless of its political colour, to refuse many applications. The blame for that must be placed fairly and squarely on the former Secretary of State, not local councils.
Mr. Hill : As I noticed you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, glancing at your watch, I shall not get into that larger argument as to whether the blame should be taken by a former Secretary of State, by local councils, or by anyone else. We Members of Parliament must ask ourselves how the cities, towns or villages that we represent will look in 20 years' time. I fully agree that planning applications that impinge on the green belt should be refused.
I am worried about how much of the investment in Southampton will produce jobs. We are losing, for example, the Pirelli factory, which the Labour local authority wants to turn into a shopping arcade where one can buy anything that one could possibly want when going Christmas shopping. How many real jobs will that produce? I must not allow myself to be swayed by the comments of Opposition Members, who avoid the argument that manufacturing investment in other parts of the country--particularly in areas such as those represented by the hon. Members for Manchester, Central and for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley)--has risen by 16 per cent.
Southampton university plans to double its size in the next 30 years. Although I want to see that expansion, the university will require 250 acres of woodland to achieve it. That demonstrates the different directions in which a Member of Parliament is pulled. Should I support the university in its plans to produce more graduates and job opportunities for tutors, or should I fight the battle for the environment? At the end of the day, individual right hon. and hon. Members must answer such questions for themselves. The House will in due course know my decision, because right hon. and hon. Members will be the first people that I tell. Meanwhile, I have reached the end of my speech and I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to speak for the length of time that I have.
Column 1565.35 pm
Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central) : I am glad of this opportunity to speak on certain aspects of the Queen's Speech as they affect Scotland. There is little of any substance for Scotland in the Queen's Speech, which is a great shame. Certainly there is nothing in it that is positive and that offers hope to the people of Scotland. Perhaps that is because the Government feel that they have already lost the argument in Scotland. They could be forgiven for thinking so, given that support for the Conservatives in Scotland is, according to the opinion polls, at the derisory level of 17 per cent. It might reasonably have been thought after the 1987 general election that the fortunes of the Conservative party in Scotland had reached a nadir, but evidently that is not the case. I dare say that, if the Secretary of State for Scotland was given the opportunity today to achieve a popularity rating of 24 per cent. for his party, which was the level it enjoyed in 1987, he would welcome it. However, that will not happen.
One of the main reasons for the Government's unpopularity in Scotland is the continuing high level of unemployment there. In April, unemployment in the United Kingdom as a whole stood at 7.4 per cent. ; in Scotland, 9 per cent. ; and in Glasgow, 16.7 per cent. Youth unemployment in Glasgow stood at more than 23 per cent.
Sadly, the Queen's Speech contains no answers to the social and economic problems that cause, and are caused by, unemployment. It says nothing about reviving the Scottish economy. I admit that there has been a fall in unemployment in Strathclyde over the past year. The latest available statistics show that the number of people employed in Strathclyde has increased by 5,000, but that is well short of the fall in the number of registered unemployed over the same period, which is four times higher at 23,000.
That considerable gulf is accounted for by the outward migration of people from Strathclyde and from Scotland as a whole who are desperate for work. Scots are forced to leave their homes, families, friends, and in some cases their country to find work. That is in a country whose economy has, according to the Prime Minister as recently as yesterday, an underlying strength. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) eloquently pointed out, that is not the case.
There is precious little evidence of economic growth in the city that I represent. It has been devastated by the collapse of the manufacturing industry on which Glasgow was built. Much of that collapse is the result of the Government's economic policies. The people of Glasgow have received cold comfort from the dispersal there of a few Civil Service jobs and the establishment of Britoil's headquarters in the city--which has proved to be a mailed fist in a velvet glove, with hundreds of jobs about to be cut by Britoil's new owners, BP. We await with trepidation the announcement of how severe those cuts will be.
The only crumb of comfort in the Queen's Speech in respect of jobs for Scotland is not in the least appetising. The headquarters for the already much-discredited student loan scheme is to be established in Glasgow. If the creation of 150 jobs in what will be no more than a debt collection agency is thought to be a price worth paying for the establishment of some credibility for the irrelevant and damaging top-up loans proposal, the Government ought to think again. Glaswegians are not that easily deceived.
Column 157One of the indigenous Scottish industries that has been hit hardest of all during the past decade also merits a mention in the Queen's Speech. Somewhat cryptically it says :
"A Bill will be introduced to assist the financial restructuring of the British Coal Corporation."
That sounds to me, and to many of my colleagues in Scotland, England and Wales, like a euphemism for further privatisation--for the sell-off of what remains of the United Kingdom's coal industry. Should that come to pass, it would probably prove to be the death knell of deep-mined coal in Scotland. With only 2,000 miners now employed in the industry, that will perhaps seem to be no great loss to the Government, or to the Secretary of State for Scotland, but it would be a severe blow to the future of Scotland's economy. The inclusion of that statement in the Queen's Speech will cause concern not just in Scotland but also in areas such as Yorkshire and south Wales where many people still rely on the industry for employment. It is incumbent on the Government to state explicitly just what their intentions for the coal industry are. Privatisation would be an unmitigated disaster-- yet another sell-off of public assets, the only beneficiaries being the Government's friends in the City : people who worship at the altar of international finance to whom money is God and the stock exchange the high church. They transfer millions of pounds around the world at the press of a button. To them, ordinary people are just numbers. They are of little importance in their grand scheme. Unemployment is, to them, a word that is barely capable of comprehension and, I am absolutely certain, is rarely if ever considered.
I referred earlier to new unemployment in the city of Glasgow. One method of tackling the chronic unemployment that continues to blight Glasgow and other major cities is the provision of training for those without work. It is a sad fact and, I believe, a scandal that the Government's attempts to help people to help themselves have been dismally, indeed woefully, inadequate. Opposition Members have consistently attacked the youth training scheme and employment training. They have exposed them as the confidence trick that they undoubtedly are. Such ventures are to training what hang gliding is to space exploration. That has never been seriously in doubt, not least among those who have been unfortunate enough to participate as so-called trainees.
If further research were needed, it came last week in the form of a series of well researched, well written and well presented articles in the Glasgow Evening Times, in the best tradition of investigative and campaigning journalism. The articles exposed a shameful abuse of Government funds--all apparently quite legal, which makes it no less shameful. They exposed sham training schemes, cheap labour and the cynical demoralisation of young people who desperately want training to improve their chances of escaping from the dole queue.
I should like to quote some examples. A man, unemployed for a long period, who wanted to be a driver said :
"We sat in a room doing exercises, talking, passing the time. There were two guys who had been doing it for 10 months, the same exercises over and over again. I wanted to be a forklift driver, to get a licence, but I've never been near a forklift truck."
A further example concerns a group of people who were trying to acquire skills in the building trade. When they turned up on the first day,