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Column 175goals for free enterprise and in which the central object is for Britain to win. We urgently need a renewed endorsement of the importance of manufacturing. We cannot all be employed opening doors for one another while the Japanese, the Germans and the Californians make off with the new technology.
I mean no disrespect to our excellent civil servants when I say that the Government must soon include within their official ranks more people who understand markets, money-making and line management, so that they can add to the Government's understanding of the challenges that Britain faces in world markets. In turn, that will enable the Government to negotiate EC standards for 1992 that help and never hinder British competitiveness.
The 1992 initiative by the Department of Trade and Industry, though well intentioned, has been more like door-to-door salesmanship over the past year than a calculated strategic warning to British industry. It has lulled too many British companies into a sense of complacency because they have the idea that the Government have everything under control. Meanwhile, French companies have been busy building distribution houses in northern France ready to meet British retailers head-on after 1992, and they intend to do so on margins that are far lower than those that the City expects from our leading store chains.
The Government must also manage their huge investment programme in transportation, which was expanded so encouragingly in the Autumn Statement, with the professionalism, vigour, control and sense of urgency that have not always been evident. Private industry must accept that it must do much more with its own resources--not taxpayers' money--in research and development, marketing in the broadest sense of that discipline and in training in order to build on what the Government have already successfully achieved in those fields.
If private industry complains about the downturn or shows itself reluctant in the coming year to do more on its own behalf because it feels the squeeze of the necessary anti-inflationary expedient of high interest rates, the Government should make it absolutely clear to private sector management what is expected of it. That is not consensus, it is leadership, and that is what we expect of a Conservative Government.
Lastly, the Government should not be reluctant to remind the City, where there will be many institutional funds on the sidelines even after the privatisation issues, that it has a role to play, not at the Government's behest but for the sake of its own investors. The City should emulate German, French and Japanese finance houses by giving priority support to companies that demonstrate skill with product development and with tomorrow's marketing strategies. Instead, all too often the City indulges in the short-termism of paper-driven acquisitions which merely succeed in churning the fixed assets and human resources, to nobody's strategic benefit in the long haul. If the Government appear informed and confident about British industry and are seen to enthuse about its many strengths, the private sector will no doubt play its part most effectively in a difficult trading year, and will certainly contribute to the upturn that will follow in 1991. In that fashion, the commitment in the Gracious Speech to
Column 176containing inflation will be borne out and British industry will continue to expand and prosper under sound Conservative policies. 6.55 pm
Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) : We have had not a Gracious Speech but an un-Gracious Speech from an ungrateful Government who on three occasions have misled the people. I naively believed that the Gracious Speech would redress the mistakes that the Government have made in the past 10 years. They have engaged in a witch hunt against the vulnerable members of society, especially the old, the young and the sick. However, none of the Government's mistakes will be redressed by the legislative proposals.
There is agreement on some areas of general policy. I welcome the introduction of a food Bill because it is extremely important for consumers to be protected by legislation. Figures show that last year more than 40,000 people suffered some form of food poisoning. However, I and others will vigorously oppose any attempt by the Government to allow the import of processing of irradiated food. It is also extremely important for local authorities to be given effective resources so that they can enforce the legislation.
I welcome the introduction of legislation to protect the environment. It is long overdue and comes after reports by Select Committee and royal commissions. I hope to see in the legislation specific commitments to the allocation of greater resources to local authority environmental health departments. I especially wish to see, as I think does the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), the introduction of clauses about the practice of landfill. The Barkley Thorpe area of my constituency is affected by the accumulation of methane. The residents there have fought a courageous campaign to prevent the city and the county council from developing houses on the site and to prevent developers from extracting the methane because such extraction would cause misery and inconvenience.
I welcome the proposed legislation to combat drug trafficking. However, more attention should be paid to the way in which we deal with the importation of drugs and their distribution. I and other members of the Select Committee on Home Affairs visited Washington where we saw the terrible effects of crack on the young people of America. I hope that as well as providing for international co-operation the new Bill will examine ways in which Britain's police forces can co-ordinate the fight against drugs. We should not wait until crack becomes a major problem. We should act now before it affects our young people.
I support the proposed legislation on legal services. The Lord Chancellor is one of the most radical that this country has ever had. I declare an interest as a former practising solicitor. Current restrictive practices which protect solicitors and barristers from proper competition should be removed, but in challenging them we must consider people's access to legal services. There should be measures on legal aid limits and the abolition of the means test to provide equal access to the law. There should be a measure about the operation of the duty solicitors scheme which, unfortunately, has collapsed in many parts of the country. I should welcome greater commitment to the Crown prosecution service. In the past six months, 38
Column 177solicitors have resigned from the service. I should like to see measures about court structure and delays and the establishment of family courts, which were promised in the Children Act 1989 but have not materialised.
There will be many disagreements over the health legislation. To allow hospitals to become self-governing is not the solution to the problems in the National Health Service. Exactly a week ago my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) came to Leicester to see how the Health Service operates there. Consultants, junior doctors and general practitioners all appealed for greater resources for the NHS. They are tired of having to work 120 hours a week and risk the possibility that they will make mistakes in diagnosing illnesses. The solution lies in the hands of the Secretary of State for Health. He should provide the resources that doctors need.
In Leicester, we are struggling to open three beds in the new renal unit in Leicester general hospital. The health authority states that it cannot open them because it does not have sufficient resources. Many kidney patients are taking up beds in other parts of the hospital.
The student loans legislation will be vigorously opposed and I hazard a guess that by the middle of next year the Government will have withdrawn it. Loans affect people's right to education. I could not have had the education that I received if the student loans legislation had been in place. If we want to do something about education, we should consider the amount of money needed to repair our schools, especially schools in the outer parts of cities, which are neglected, and the teacher-pupil relationship.
We shall vigorously oppose the legislation on broadcasting. Although broadcasting could be improved in some respects, we have the best television in the world. That is what American broadcasters told us when the Select Committee went to America to see developments in cable television. They hoped that our system of broadcasting would give sufficient attention to quality and not allow television to be sold to the highest bidder.
Nothing in the proposed legislation will improve the problems of the homeless. There are 14,500 people on the housing waiting list in Leicester. Homes are being built in places such as the Hamilton estate in the eastern part of the city. Unfortunately, people cannot afford to buy those private homes because they cannot afford the current mortgage interest rates. The estate was to have had 4,000 houses, but only 100 have been built in the past three years and only 12 are occupied. Perhaps the Government will introduce legislation to give local authorities the power of compulsory purchase over those empty private houses so that they can make them available to people on the waiting list.
The proposed legislation will do nothing to save or protect the textiles and footwear industry. I raised that with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he stated confidently at the Dispatch Box that there was nothing in the Queen's Speech relating to industry. Thirty thousand jobs have been lost in the textiles industry in the past year, and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in textiles and footwear in the past 10 years. Textile bosses and unions will come to the House on 5 December, hoping to meet the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and convince him that current interest rates, the value of the pound and a market awash with imports from Korea and Taiwan do not help textiles and footwear. They will demand that the Government take action.
Column 178There is nothing in the Queen's Speech about children. I hope that the Government will be one of the first to sign the universal declaration on the rights of the child. The way in which society treats its children is a measure of its civilised nature. The Queen's Speech shows that the Government are running out of steam. They have run out of ideas and they realise that they have lost the support of the electorate, so they have introduced measures which they hope will redress the balance. They will not. This is the end not of the Thatcher dream, but of the Thatcher nightmare. 7.5 pm
Mr. James Paice (Cambridge, South-East) : I welcome the appointment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Patten) as Secretary of State for the Environment and, more particularly, the measures that he has already taken to demonstrate his commitment to the job that he has undertaken. It is not too much to say that the country has high expectations of him. Several of my hon. Friends have already welcomed the Bill on the environment outlined in the Queen's Speech. The British people are rightly more aware about the environment and everything that pertains to it. My right hon. Friend bears a heavy burden of responsibility, not least because many aspects of the environment are not national but international issues.
This week we have spent much time almost worshipping the changes in the political scene on the other side of what we have known as the iron curtain. We must understand that, in those countries, there is major industrial pollution. There has been much use behind the iron curtain of lignite, which is one of the most polluting fuels. It has destroyed millions of acres of Poland and parts of Russia. I shall concentrate my remarks on the role of forestry in the environment of the United Kingdom. Much is made of the destruction of tropical forests, but I shall confine my remarks to the forests of the northern hemisphere, particularly those of the United Kingdom, and the role of managed forests as opposed to natural, wild and regenerative forests. Forests have a major role to play in the provision of habitats, in recreation and in the visual attractiveness of the environment. They have suffered badly from the reputation created by mass planting of conifers on the hills of Scotland. Modern planting and planning techniques have done away with that. By use of more mixed planting, a more visually attractive and beneficial environment has been created.
The most important aspect of trees is that they are nature's own scrubbers. Their ability to fix carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into solid material makes them unique, along with the rest of plant material. In forests, carbon dioxide is fixed for a long time. I suppose that I should declare an interest--
If the global warming estimates are right, half of my constituency would disappear under the sea, perhaps before I disappear and certainly before my children go to their graves. Developments in science have enabled the carbon-fixing properties of trees to be improved rapidly. We now have Douglas fir, every acre of which can fix four
Column 179tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. Most important, the maximum fixation rate occurs long before the tree reaches maturity. We are rather paranoid about cutting down trees. We worry about it. We have massive marches and protests whenever it is suggested. In reality, we must harvest trees. So long as we replant them and they are rotated, they must be harvested to attain the maximum fixing of carbon dioxide.
In the past few years, forestry policy has suffered greatly. The changes in the tax regime, right as they were, unfortunately threw the whole industry into a turmoil from which it has not yet recovered. Only a week ago my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, said that our present target for afforestation was 36,000 hectares a year. That is nowhere near enough. A massive increase in afforestation is needed. Ten per cent. of our total land area is under trees, compared with 78 per cent. in agriculture. Only Ireland and the Netherlands have a lower proportion of their land area under trees. Seven of the 12 Community countries have more than 20 per cent. of their land area under trees. Our ratio of 8 : 1 of agriculture to trees compares badly with those seven countries, whose ratio is less than 3.5 : 1.
My hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning will think that that is all very well but has nothing to do with the Department of the Environment, because forestry policy is dealt with by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. However, there is a precedent. In the past few months, the Countryside Commission, which comes under the Department of the Environment, has stepped into agricultural policy by providing an enhancement of set-aside payments for farmers in my county and those adjoining it who have developed recreational and leisure uses of the land that they have set aside. The principle of cross-subsidy of an activity is already entrenched.
We need to consider our forestry policy carefully, particularly as it affects the environment. There is a need for slightly, not dramatically, enhanced payments under the various schemes and for greater research into genetic improvement to ensure that trees grow faster, and therefore fix carbon dioxide more quickly and effectively. The work of the Forestry Commission on poplar coppicing and on developing new uses for poplar wood for pulp and particle board means that we can now look at fixation rates well in excess of four tonnes of carbon dioxide an acre. We need to adopt sensible targets. To double the acreage under trees is a realistic, achievable target.
I do not pretend that that would solve all our problems. Even if we afforested the whole of the United Kingdom, the trees would not take out anything like the volume of carbon dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere from the United Kingdom. It is no use preaching at other countries. We should demonstrate our intent by practising in our own country that which we wish to be practised elsewhere. Today's debate is about the environment and trade and industry. We import a vast amount of timber products. We are only 12 per cent. self-sufficient. The industry reckons
Column 180that at least 50 per cent. of our imports could be replaced by home production. That would be a massive saving in our balance of payments. We import 8.6 million tonnes of pulp. That import bill can be attacked in two ways--first by the afforestation policy that I have outlined and second by recycling.
Recycling has become popular because of the concept of saving a tree. I hope that I have made it clear that that is the last thing that we want to do if we care about the environment. We need to maintain a constant rotation of trees--planting, growing and harvesting them--to ensure that the environment reaps the maximum benefit from them. Recycling saves energy and imports. Moreover, it saves methane, which would be the result of degradation if paper were used as landfill.
The waste paper industry has gone through many changes. In the past few years there has been massive investment which means that it will need twice as much paper between now and 1993. Charities can play an important role and we rely on them for recycling paper, but this important matter should not be left to charities. The Government need to attach greater import to recycling and to research into the use of de-inking, soluble inks and soluble glues, as well as better collection methods. The present method is highly wasteful of energy. In those ways we can reduce the massive import bill for paper, board and pulp, which is running at more than£3 billion a year. I wish to impress on the Minister the need for an effective forestry policy and an effective paper recycling policy. Both will do a great deal to resolve some of our balance of payments problems. Both will promote the environment and both are inextricably intertwined in their effect on our country and the world. I look forward to their inclusion in the Government's work on the environment.
Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) : As the only Liberal Democrat Member seeking to speak in this debate, I must put on the record my anger that I should be called so late and squeezed in at this stage. Clearly, it reflects a change in practice brought about by the introduction of the television cameras. As a member of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry and as my party's spokesman on the environment, I expected to have a longer opportunity to deploy our case than the 10 minutes to which my speech must be confined. It runs contrary to the assurances given when the 10 minutes rule was introduced that it would not be used to discriminate against third parties and prevent them from deploying their arguments fully on the Floor of the House.
Our environmental policy is at the heart of our political programme. It is not an afterthought, as it is for the Government and the Opposition, who have chosen to open the debate on industry and allow the arguments on the environment to be dealt with in the closing speeches, rather than fully explained.
I welcome the appointment of the new Secretary of State for the Environment. I believe that he is genuinely committed to environmental matters, but the company he keeps will make it difficult for him to implement the necessary policies. He will find that simply being in the company of people who wear green wellies will not make him an effective green Minister.
Column 181The Secretary of State assumes his new responsibilities at a time when the Government are a complete shambles. The Prime Minister, in a speech at the United Nations, claimed to put forward her plan to save the world. At the same time her Ministers in Europe were blocking any agreement to reach targets on the reduction of carbon dioxide outputs. They joined with Japan and the United States of America to block agreements which would have done something about the greenhouse effect. The Prime Minister claims to be worried about the greenhouse effect, but is incapable of pursuing any policies to help remedy it. In the same speech the Prime Minister said that the real answer to the greenhouse effect was to expand nuclear power. That opinion is unjustified and not borne out by the facts, if she would care to recognise them, because the expansion of nuclear power will contribute to the greenhouse effect, while energy conservation is the way to fix it. However, she was making that speech when, at home, Cabinet Ministers were deciding to abandon the nuclear programme to which she was so committed. As a consequence, she returned to a Government in shambles. The Government's green rhetoric has been characterised by a policy of dither and delay. The Government have said that they cannot take environmental action unless it can be taken internationally and be backed up by full, worked-out scientific evidence. That is an excuse for inaction, an opportunity for delay and a cop out, as a result of which the Government will not take the action that they should take.
I accept that the market will be involved in some environmental action. However, I dispute that the serious situation that we face can be resolved simply by market solutions, as many Ministers seem to believe. There are economic benefits from recycling and energy conservation, such as reduced fuel poverty, increased competitiveness, and the use of recycled material as raw material.
However, when I asked the then Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, the hon. Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley), how many local authorities have facilities for the collection of waste oil and how many local authorities have sites where textiles can be taken and recycled, her reply was that this information was not held centrally. Will the Secretary of State tell us how he will achieve a target of 50 per cent. recycling of all raw materials if he does not know what is being recycled now? How will he monitor such an achievement? In recycling Britain lags behind every other country in the European Community except Ireland. We are 11th out of 12 in the recycling of glass and paper. The Government have a long way to go if they are to achieve their stated targets.
The Bill that the Government will introduce will receive our support in so far as it achieves objectives on recycling and control of pollution. The Government have been telling us for years that we can achieve a 30 per cent. increase in energy efficiency by energy conservation, but in spite of 10 years of rhetoric, that has not been achieved. Why should we have any confidence in Government promises that they can achieve improvements in recycling when, on other aspects such as their energy policy, they have been incapable of coming up with the goods? The Energy Efficiency Office budget has been cut from £24.5 million to £15 million this year, and is to be held, and thereby cut in real terms, for the remainder of this Parliament. That suggests a Government who do not have the slightest idea of how to go about dealing with environmental priorities.
Column 182That is in sharp contrast to the record of Liberal Democrats in local government. The Minister is on record as saying that local authorities can do nothing. That is true if they are controlled by the Conservative party, but not if they are controlled by Liberal Democrats, who have taken initiatives. I offer an invitation to the Minister. We are more than willing to sit down with his officials and our councillors and campaigners to discuss how we might achieve the targets that he claims that he wants to achieve. We can demonstrate how our councillors are blazing the trail and have taken action that could usefully be followed by the Government. We act where others only talk.
The Government are in some difficulty because they have pursued a privatisation policy that has been an environmental disaster as well as an organisational shambles. We are being taken to court over water quality. We have a sewage problem that the Government deny exists, in spite of evidence to the contrary. There is no confidence in the management of toxic waste. Ministers claim that we are so good at processing toxic waste that we should process everybody else's as well as our own, but the Select Committee on the Environment made it abundantly clear that we have a disgraceful record on this and the Government have not begun to address the problem.
As part of the programme of visiting a number of sites where toxic waste processing is either being undertaken or planned, I went to Doncaster. Opposition to the planned expansion there is universal. It comes from all sectors of the community, including businesses, which see that the expansion of the Doncaster waste site will destroy the quality of their markets. For example, it will be impossible to sell quality food products in the shadow of toxic waste processing. In spite of that overwhelming opposition, the Secretary of State will take a year to decide whether to allow this project to go ahead. He should make it clear straight away that this is an unsuitable site for toxic waste processing, and the plant should be scrapped. He will find difficulty squaring the record that he inherits with his credentials. He has a mess to clean up.
I have already referred to the Prime Minister's speech on nuclear power. We have campaigned consistently against nuclear power and in the last fortnight all our arguments have been vindicated. Nuclear power is hopelessly uneconomic and billions of pounds have been squandered when they could have been invested in energy conservation and the development of alternatives. We could have saved many communities from being blighted by the threat of a nuclear power station. Even now, the Government should cancel all plans for nuclear power stations, release the sites that are tied up and recognise that the vindication of our argument shows the commitment that we have shown. Labour and Conservative Governments alike have refused to accept that, until too much damage has been done. Lord Marshall should be decommissioned himself, and forced to resign.
The Government will have to put up the money if they are to have an effective environmental policy. There has been a great deal of green mouthing. It would be nice to see the colour of the money and to be told where the greenbacks are to fulfil the Government's declared environmental policy.
Column 1837.26 pm
Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth) : I must place on record, for the benefit of hon. Members not here, the fact that we have just seen the first example of what the media call "doughnutting", when eight assorted Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament walked into the Chamber specifically to be recorded on the cameras. It should be put on record that they were not here earlier. What is more, some of us who have been in the House for five hours do not take kindly to seeing the camera fodder come in.
Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is ridiculous and scandalous for the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) to say that we are not interested in the environment or listening to the contributions being made. He is impugning--
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) : Order. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that the length of speeches is limited under the 10-minutes rule and that he is taking time from the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick). Nothing out of order has been said.
Mr. Kirkwood : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is impugning the motives and the intentions of hon. Members by saying that they have come into the Chamber simply so that they can appear on television.
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was in the Chamber listening to the opening speeches of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and of the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), who spoke on behalf of the Labour party. During both those speeches, the House was quite well filled with hon. Members of those two parties, each listening to their spokesman, who left the Chamber at the end of those speeches. Therefore, it is not unreasonable that hon. Members representing this party should come into the debate--it is in order for us to do so--to hear the spokesman for our party.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : That is not a point of order. The hon. Gentleman should have heard me the first two times. So far, while discourteous remarks may have been made, I have heard nothing that is out of order. All this is time out of the period for which the hon. Member for Bosworth can speak.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat when I am on my feet. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and his hon. Friends must contain themselves. The hon. Gentleman's remarks may have been greatly provocative and discourteous, but they were not out of order.
Mr. Tredinnick : I cannot believe that I have hit such a raw nerve in SLD Members. It is certainly a surprise to my right hon. and hon. Friends. If SLD Members want to major on the fact that they have packed in to the Chamber for the cameras and that those Benches were empty earlier this evening, I do not mind if they take time out of my speech, as it is a credit to my hon. Friends that they have have been here this afternoon. It does SLD Members no credit, because they have not been here.
Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South) : I think my hon. Friend may have been discourteous to SLD Members, because they clearly did not know what their party's policy was, and they needed to come into the Chamber to listen to their spokesman.
Mr. David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) rose --
Mr. Steel : To allow his speech to proceed, I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept it from me as a former leader of the Liberal party that it has long been the practice for my right hon. and hon. Friends to attend the speech by the party spokesman, just as it is the practice for hon. Members of other parties to be here in greater numbers to hear their spokesman. That has nothing to do with the introduction of the cameras, which are not allowed to pan the Benches.
I listened with amazement to the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) when he talked down British industry and ignored the Government's training schemes--the most ambitious and impressive that we have had in the United Kingdom--and the economic regeneration that has taken place in the past 10 years.
In Bosworth there has been massive investment. A new trading estate of some 600 acres is under development--300 acres by the excellent Hinckley and Bosworth borough council, and 300 privately. When land is released, it is taken up. That is a sign not of a problem but of continuing success. New businesses open every week and there is an underlying trend of prosperity.
Despite a fall in unemployment to 3 per cent. in the Hinckley area, traditional industries have had difficulties in reconstructing. The hosiery and knitwear industry is reconstructing successfully, and companies have brought in high technology. However, I appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to maintain temporarily the multi-fibre arrangement, which has been in place for 15 years. The argument that it should be done away with because it has outlived its usefulness is not true. Companies such as James Bennett Knitwear have brought
Column 185in new material, plant and equipment to get over a difficult period, and they need an extension of the arrangement to help them through the next stage.
The shoe industry has suffered great losses, and I appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to enforce existing treaties that protect the industry at a difficult time.
In my constituency there is an underlying positive trend. We have had problems with reconstruction, and now we have the problems caused by prosperity--a shortage of skilled workers. I was delighted to be present on Monday at the opening of the Hinckley enterprise agency, which has had tremendous support from the business community. It is not surprising that we need new training facilities, because 3 million new jobs have been created in Britain in the past six months, and that is more than in any other country in the EEC. We need those agencies and the training and enterprise councils. I welcome the fact that they are employer-led schemes as that must be the way forward. We need to target training needs accurately to fill the job vacancies of the 1990s and beyond.
I welcome the green Bill and the quality of life Bills that the Government are to introduce. Due to the raw nerve I touched on the SLD Benches earlier --Benches that are normally deserted, but are not so deserted now--I shall not be able to cover that ground. Opposition Members' interventions served my party well because they showed how ludicrous it is to bring in hon. Members for the benefit of those new-fangled contraptions--the cameras-- which I do not think we are allowed to mention. I hope that my hon. Friends will allow me the luxury of mentioning them, as they have been here for only two days. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has taken the lead on environmental issues worldwide. I hope that she will do what she can to allow British technology to clean up plants and power stations in eastern Europe. My right hon. and hon. Friends have mentioned the tremendous problems there and I hope that that policy will be pursued by my right hon. Friend.
Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston) : Yesterday, the House listened to the Prime Minister's description of what can only be described as the fairytale land of Britain in the 1980s. We listened to the usual rhetoric--the hallmark of the Prime Minister--and an ever-changing Treasury Bench team into which no end of substitutes have been brought in the hope that we would not notice that, although the faces change, the direction and style of the Government remain the same.
The Government are locked into a set of economic and social policies that have brought about the decimation of British manufacturing industry, and a return to mass unemployment which is apparently no longer on their agenda. The prize that the Prime Minister is in search of, and for which sacrifices have been made, is the control of inflation. However, inflation is rising again, at a level above that of our competitors in Europe.
The Prime Minister has shown that, beyond any shadow of doubt, she is out of touch with reality. Although fairytale land may exist in parts of Britain, my region is a different world. It is a world in which unemployment in certain sections of the work force is as high as 19 per cent. and will remain so for many years. It is a region where pensioners cannot live at a standard
Column 186which one would expect in a country which the Prime Minister has described as a country of great wealth. The people who have accumulated wealth from the Government are not the people who produce it.
The maintenance of our towns and cities has further declined. They are suffering from decline and obsolescence as a result of the Government's cuts in expenditure and finance to local government. Like public expenditure, local government has been an enemy of the Government. As a result, local authorities are almost compelled to sell recreation land, parks and buildings to maintain some level of service. Tackling poverty, particularly in the northern region, Scotland and Northern Ireland, requires greater support from local authorities.
Unlike many other hon. Members, I did not expect the Gracious Speech to contain anything other than more doses of the medicine to which we have become used during the past 10 years. The shift to the radical Right represented by the election of the Government in 1979 has revealed that the intention was to shift the balance of power dramatically away from the people and to the top echelons. The price has been paid in terms of democracy, civil rights and trade union rights.
Capitalism has taken control of every aspect of life, but there is no accountability. We have experienced the results of inflation and of high interest rates on mortgages. The Prime Minister boasted about the number of people who own their own homes. She omitted to tell us how many people are having their homes taken from them because they cannot continue their mortgage payments.
The Gracious Speech does not mention the crisis in education. Headmasters and assistant headmasters in my area write to me daily about the crisis in schools in Liverpool. They say that the weight of work handed to them by the Government in the form of the national curriculum means that other work has been almost abandoned. That shows how the Government are treating our children's future. Nothing in the Gracious Speech gives us any hope of change. It seems that the Government have learnt nothing from the past 10 years.
Under this Government, manufacturing industry will decline further. Shipbuilding, one of our major industries, has declined on Clydeside and Merseyside and in Belfast. We know that an island nation requires a viable merchant fleet and we have put pressure on the Government to single out shipbuilding for the contribution that it can make to the revival of Britain's economy, but there is nothing about it or any other industry in the Gracious Speech.
Our merchant fleet is dissipated and is vanishing as each day passes. The Government have done nothing to reverse that. Our seamen are unemployed. Our shipworkers are unemployed. The skills and crafts that built the great liners and merchant fleets of the world lie idle. That is a scandal. I have no doubt that the direction in which the Government are going will lead to more decline and obsolescence in the regions, which have already suffered during the past 10 years.
The Government have failed absolutely in all their social policies. There has been a marked decline in hospital services and in the Health Service in general. There has been a virtual dismantling of the welfare state which was once an example to the rest of the world. This uncaring Government have listened to only one section of British society. They have not listened to those who live in the real world. People now realise that the Government do not
Column 187care for those who live in the regions. We believe that they are the forgotten people and there is nothing in the Gracious Speech to suggest that that will be remedied.
People now recognise that they made a great mistake when they put their trust in the Government, who have no regard for progressive social policies and who are indifferent to the creation of a better quality of life. The Government disregard the real poverty suffered by pensioners. People write to me and, I am sure, other hon. Members saying that they cannot maintain a reasonable standard of life. Often, they report that a pension increase is followed by a rent increase and a reduction in housing and other benefits, with the result that the pension increase is wiped out and their standard of living is lowered.
I hope that, in the not-too-distant future, the people, realising all this, will sweep out the Government and that a Labour Government will begin to rectify the problems that we shall inherit from the Conservatives.
Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre) : Before commenting on the Gracious Speech, which I find encouraging, I thought that I would welcome the many Liberal Members who have come to take part in the debate, but it seems that their presence here was brief as most of them have disappeared again. It seems that they want to listen to their own spokesmen but do not feel it necessary to listen to the rest of us. That is a great shame.
I should like to consider how environmental policies impinge on British industry. For many years now, a number of companies in Europe have recognised the need to pursue policies that can be called environmentally benign and tried to ensure that emissions and recycling are given a high priority--I think particularly of car and power station emissions.
On the other side of the Channel, notably in Germany, the motor car industry has made great strides in its attempt to clean up its act and to produce cars with catalytic convertors which cause much less poisonous exhaust fumes. I am pleased to see that, as a result of the European directives that are to come into force in 1992, we, too, will have to fit such devices to our motor cars. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to bring that date forward as it is important that the British car industry fits such devices as soon as possible to clean up car emissions. Only in that way will it have a chance of competing with car manufacturers in the rest of Europe. I believe that we can take a lead, with the rest of Europe, in reducing emissions from diesel vehicles. A great amount of research has been carried out recently and we know that diesel vehicle emissions are poisonous. It has been shown that they can be carcinogenic. They have an effect also on photochemical smog. We must engage in more research and ensure that clean diesel engines are produced in Britain. We should insist that the European Commission produces emission standards for diesel vehicles in precisely the same way as those that are produced for vehicles with petrol engines. I should like to see Britain follow the lead taken by the United States in emission standards, where strict standards will be introduced in 1991 and 1994.
There are problems in energy generation as well, and this is an area in which we have a long way to go. I disagree
Column 188with the Liberal party spokesman, the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce). We can reduce considerably the amount of carbon dioxide that is released by power stations by continuing with our nuclear programme. I use the achievement of France over the past 10 or 15 years to make my point, with 70 per cent. of its energy needs being met through nuclear power. France is well on the road to reducing considerably the amount of CO that is dissipated into the atmosphere. If we are to meet some of the targets that have been set for ourselves and other countries in the short term at least, we must not allow the nuclear power programme to founder. We must ensure that there are other nuclear power stations apart from Sizewell B so that we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power stations. I agree that alongside that programme we need also to introduce a programme of energy conservation.
If we are to generate electricity by means of coal or nuclear power, and nuclear power is the cleaner way of doing so, we must not allow our nuclear programme to founder. We shall have a problem in future if we allow the amount of energy that we generate by nuclear means to fall much below 20 per cent.
The relationship between the environment and industrial policy lies in recycling, which was dealt with so admirably by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice). To add to my hon. Friend's statistics, we import what amounts to £9 million-worth of waste paper each year. There must be room for the encouragement of recycling. I hope that the Bill on the protection of the environment that is to be introduced will include clauses that insist on local authorities producing practical programmes to encourage individuals and companies to recycle the material that otherwise would be thrown away. We must seek also to enhance the reputation of recycling companies. The scrap metal industry, for example, does a great deal of good in recycling, but in the past it has not had the image that it deserved. I hope that in future its image will change and that it will be seen as a benefit to the environment rather than something which happens merely to exist.
We must ensure that our environment and industrial policies go hand in hand. If we do not, countries that have taken a more benign attitude towards the environment and insisted upon higher standards of environmental protection within their industries will have a distinct competitive advantage over our industries. We must ensure, therefore, that we reduce emissions from motor cars and power stations, for example, and make certain that we recycle the maximum amount of raw material.
I believe sincerely that the coming industrial revolution will be driven not so much by the microchip as by the challenge of the environment. We must continue to ensure that we provide the goods and services that our people need while protecting the environment in which we live.