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Mr. Hamilton : I think that he is an ex-monsignor. Just before the Labour party conference, he put an advertisement in a newspaper, in which he offered £50 for information leading to the discovery of any Labour party national executive committee members willing to defend in
Column 1312open public debate their defence policy review before the party conference. There were no takers ; it may be that £50 is no longer an attraction to Labour Members, and that, because of Thatcherite prosperity their expectations are far higher. However, it was significant that no one was prepared to debate that with Bruce Kent, the great guru of CND.
In a dramatic outbreak of fraternity, the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), who regrettably is not present today--in that, at least, he is consistent--recently said of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) :
"You do not seek Kaufman any more. He has crawled so far up the backside of NATO you can't see the soles of his feet."
In his usual elegant manner of speech, the hon. Member exposed the dilemma in which the Labour party finds itself today : it dare not speak the language of Socialism, although it still harbours thoughts of it.
As with its defence policy--it has remained the same while attempting to appear different--with its economic policy the Labour party has changed its tune, although the same song is still hummed in private. No longer does it talk of privatisation--now, it is social ownership. We know that it got itself into some difficulties recently over the highly successful flotation of the water companies. Conservative Members need no reminding that the hon. Member for Dagenham let the cat out of the bag. He hinted that, if Labour were to win the next election, dividend controls would be placed on the water companies, which might result in no dividends being paid. That would rob millions of ordinary people and pension funds, on which many more ordinary people will depend in years to come for the fruits of their investments and, as a result, water shares would fall rapidly in price.
Mr. Oppenheim : Is my hon. Friend aware that he is in extremely good company in that respect? The chief whip and one of the leading lights of the Labour group on Derbyshire county council not only acquired shares when British Telecom was privatised but has acquired further shares in it since? That shows that it is not too late to learn, even for Labour Members.
The Leader of the Opposition swiftly rebuked the hon. Member for Dagenham for his honesty in revealing the truth about the Labour party's policy on nationalisation. But is that the same right hon. Gentleman who only a few years ago said that there was
"No need to be apologetic about the extension of public ownership or the establishment of workers' control"?
Of course, that was before he joined the ambitious tendency. Now that he smells office he thinks that he can no longer afford the price of his former principles.
Column 1313Not every change in the Labour party policy review is a fudge, because the union paymasters will still claim their post -dated cheques. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), who was and may still be for all I know, its employment spokesman, finds it difficult to adjust to the new regime of the voter-friendly Labour leadership. He said :
"There can be no justification for limiting the freedom of workers to seek external assistance"
in industrial disputes.
Speaking on behalf of the Labour party on employment matters, he has committed it, in effect, to the repeal of all the trade union legislation that we have introduced over the past 10 years to enfranchise the ordinary trade union member against the tyranny of the trade union bosses, to the immeasurable advantage of British industry. That has been a major ingredient in the transformation of a failing and demoralised industrial sector into one of the leading industrial sectors in the world.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West has said that the Labour party will scrap the limit of six pickets in disputes. We shall return to the mass intimidation that we saw during the miners' strike, which was not opposed but supported by the Labour party at the time. We shall return to things such as the Saltley coke works picket, to riots and to the Grunwick picket lines. The Labour party has made it clear that, if it wins the next election, it will undo all the good work that we have done over the past few years.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West was even more unequivocal about judges, on whom he is not very keen. He thinks that they are class-based and anti- trade union. In Tribune on 1 September, he proposed regular assessments of judges to ensure that they conformed to the Socialist norms that he wishes to introduce.
I shall not go on for much longer, because I am anxious to allow Labour Members to add to the telling points that I have been making, but I cannot resist examining, for just a few minutes, the economic policy of the Labour party, as adumbrated by the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith).
The Labour party believes that a number of cardinal principles must be applied to economic policy. Taxes and spending are always too low, and interest rates are always too high. It is always opposed to sensible economic policies and believes in high spending. It went before the British electorate in 1987 with a £34 billion programme, on the basis of which it was resoundingly rejected. It has not resiled from that high spending, although it is being rather more canny about its commitments.
The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East--the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer--was recently asked about his policies on credit controls. He found it difficult to say what he would do if, when the Labour party took office, it was faced with rampaging inflation. His idea was that he would appeal to the international banks for their co-operation in restricting lending. Japanese bankers were to be approached, no doubt over a jolly good lunch of beer and sandwiches at No. 10--
Mr. Hamilton : --over sake and sandwiches at No. 10--and asked to co -operate with a Labour Government to reduce inflation. Past Labour Governments have had close relationships with banks. I am sure that older hon. Members will recall the gnomes of Zurich during the first
Column 1314period of office of Lord Wilson of Rievaulx. The leaders of the last Labour Government had close relations with the international banks.
The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East misunderstands the nature of the relationship between the Labour party and the banks. It is not the Labour party that persuades the banks to do its bidding, but the Labour party that is ordered by the international banks to return to sensible economic policies. Mr. Johannes Witteveen, who I believe is well known to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne, was obliged to rescue the British people from the depredations of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who I am sorry to say will leave the House at the next election. [Interruption.]
I should like to imagine the circumstances in which this appeal would be made to the international bankers. There would be the Leader of the Opposition, who presumably would be the Prime Minister if the Labour party won the next election, and who, in the 1970s, referred in a speech to the City of London as an army of brokers and jobbers and other quaintly named parasites. Imagine the letter that would go out to the international bankers in order to rescue the Labour Government. It would read : "I am inviting you to a luncheon at No. 10 Downing street so that you can rescue our Government from the disastrous economic policies that we have been implementing since the last general election." I do not believe that the international bankers would do anything but laugh in a false, hollow way at any appeal by a Labour Government. They would be obliged to come to the rescue once again, like the seventh cavalry.
The Labour party's economic policy is as threadbare and shot full of holes as the rest of its policies. At a time when the Labour party was execrating the Government for inadequate credit controls, it was launching its own credit card and marketing it widely. The truth has been revealed by another Labour Member, the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), who regrettably is not here today, who said : "The Labour Party idea that you should have credit controls is rubbish. There is no way you can control credit except by controlling the price of credit, and the price of credit is the Bank Rate." There are some sensible Labour Members, but they no longer seem to find favour on the Opposition Front Bench. The right hon. Member for Llanelli was obliged to resign his defence portfolio because the Leader of the Opposition would not talk to him or listen to his advice. That is the story of the Labour party all over.
The Labour party's industrial policy is merely a resuscitation of the National Enterprise Board. We as taxpayers will be obliged to pour our money into other wizard investments like De Lorean, the Meriden motor cycle co-operative and Court Line. The history of the last Labour Governments show their fatal weaknesses. Referring to the right hon. Members for Chesterfield and for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), Richard Crossman described them in his diaries as "young men who, with carefree arrogance, think they can enter the business world and make it more efficient. It is the amateurishness of Harold and his young men that gets me down."
Column 1315I hope that they will not get us down in the future, because I do not believe that they have any chance of forming a Government. The Labour party's policy is to dump its policies as soon as they are noticed by the electorate. Hence the policy to introduce a two-tax system for local government and to introduce mortgage restrictions. The truth has again been revealed by the hon. Member for Oldham, West in an article in Tribune on 1 December when, referring to the future of the Labour party's policy, he said : "We can expect it to be slimmed down if we are going to have a campaign document next year, and slimmed down even further if we are to have a costed manifesto."
That was the most blatant portrayal of the cynicism with which the Labour party treats the people.
On that basis, I propose to end my speech, in the time-honoured manner of a Labour party conference, by singing "The Red Flag"--although an updated version to take account of changes introduced by the policy review. I am not sure whether the words of "The Red Flag" were part of the policy review for reconsideration. As I believe that it would not be in order to sing, despite the fact that the hon. Member for Bolsover burst into song when the cardboard boxes of petitions were brought in, I shall read the words of this new Labour party song which adequately sets out its change of policy :
"The people's flag is palest pink
We're not as red as you might think
So we can triumph at the polls
We've dumped our former Left-wing goals.
Ban the bomb? Not on your life!
We'll outlaw strikes in place of strife
We'll keep your taxes well controlled
Free enterprise will be extolled.
In office we'll reveal the trick
We'll tax and spend and live on tick.
We'll nationalise by smash and grab
And City slickers we'll kebab.
Through Labour's platform's total fudge
We're Lefties still and will not budge.
We're hoping you'll be taken in
By Mandelson's PR machine."
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield) : The first time I attended the House was in 1937 when, as a little boy of 12, I sat in the Strangers Gallery. Neville Chamberlain was Prime Minister. He was a strong supporter of Hitler and sent Lord Halifax to see him, and the captured German Foreign Office documents reveal that he congratulated Hitler on behalf of the British Government for destroying Communism in Germany and being a bulwark against Communism in the Soviet Union. I heard the then discredited Churchill speak. He warned against the dangers of Fascism. At that time, Clem Attlee, the Labour leader, sat with 150 Labour Members--a small minority, which had been reduced to 50 by the 1931 election and had increased by only 100 in 1935. Two and a half years later, Chamberlain was gone and Churchill had been created Prime Minister by the Labour Government, who would not serve under anyone else.
In 1945, I campaigned in Westminster against Churchill. He was a popular figure--after all, he had won the war with his cigar and his siren suit. We did not have
Column 1316pollsters to mislead us or "Newsnight" to tell us what the public wanted. We absolutely destroyed the Tory party. With the defeat of Hitler and Fascism, people in Britain turned their back on appeasement, the means test and unemployment and decided to build a better Britain.
It is appropriate that today, when we are told to celebrate the death of Socialism, 4.5 million names were recorded on a petition to the House expressing their commitment to the National Health Service--the greatest Socialist monument of that post-war Government. I was proud to sit at the end of that Government as a Back Bencher under Mr. Attlee as Prime Minister and Aneurin Bevan as Minister of Health. Today we have witnessed one of the regular funerals of Socialism. So many coffins for Socialism go through Fleet street every day that one wonders why the newspapers have to keep having these funerals. They have to do so because Socialism is not dead. Today Mr. Speaker had to rule--I think that he was unwise to do so--that because so many people supported the ambulance drivers the lists of their names could not all be brought to the House. I watched the Government Front Bench as box after box of petitions were brought in, showing the popular rejection of the Government's attitude towards the NHS.
This is the first time that we have discussed Socialism in the nearly 40 years during which I have been here, and I strongly welcome it. I am not surprised that there were no buses coming from all over the country, as when Snowden moved his resolution, because the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) had tabled such a rotten motion. However, the motion has allowed this debate to take place. I have already ordered the entire debate from the sound archives of the House of Commons, because I have often said that if capitalism depended on the intellectual quality of the Conservative party it would end about lunchtime tomorrow. When the long speech of the hon. Member for Tatton is made available in Chesterfield and elsewhere, it will confirm my view that the ideas of capitalism are not well espoused and do not truthfully rest on the intellectual capacities of Conservative Members.
This is the first time that we have been able to debate Socialism without having to wear makeup, without having to depend upon the courtesy of a BBC producer and without having Robin Day trying to help us to bring out what we are really trying to say, and our speeches are reported in Hansard, which is my favourite newspaper because it is not owned by Murdoch, Maxwell or Stevens. The video will be available, although I doubt that the debate will feature on the television news bulletins today, because the television companies will be off trying to find people in Leipzig and Warsaw who are critical of their Governments so as not to publicise the ambulance drivers' petition.
I shall not devote a lot of time to the speech of the hon. Member for Tatton. However, it is an absurd theory to suggest that events in eastern Europe are because people there have been studying capitalism from the time of Selsdon park through to the present Government's new philosophy. Does the hon. Member for Tatton honestly believe that what happened in Warsaw was because Poles were longing for a poll tax, that people in Uzbekistan are yearning to sell of their water supply, that there is an almost irresistible demand for the YTS in Romania, or that they need more homeless people in East Berlin to prove the wisdom of market forces or that they are longing to have the Tsar back.
Column 1317Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes) rose --
If Gorbachev announced that his son was to succeed him, as the system that we have in Britain, would that be a democratic gain? If the supreme Soviet divided itself into two, half by patronage and half by heredity, as in Britain, would that be a great gain? Do Conservative Members really believe the arguments put forward in the hon. Gentleman's speech? Does the hon. Gentleman honestly believe that the people in Warsaw, East Germany and Hungary have demanded their human rights only because we had a cruise missile on hire purchase from Washington? Does he believe that those living in Hungary would not want the vote except for the knowledge that the British Prime Minister, with the permission of the United States president, is allowed to press a button to sink them all into oblivion? What nonsense the Conservative party has been propagating! I put forward an amendment. I was told that I could do so, but that it would not be called. That is the fate of most people in the House with something useful to say. I am, however, allowed to refer to the amendment although it will not be tested in the Lobbies--we shall have to wait until the next general election for that. The amendment welcomes the development of democracy in eastern Europe and states something which any serious person is bound to say--that throughout the whole of human history there has been a consistent repression of human rights by every known system of government.
When William the Conqueror arrived here in 1066 and went to Westminster Abbey on Christmas day, he announced how he would govern the country. Nobody ever spoke of democracy in the name of monarchy. Feudalism in Britain included slavery. In 19th century Britain there was no democracy in the sense in which we mean it. In 1832, only 2 per cent. of men--all rich-- had the vote. When I was born in 1925 the whole of India was governed from this country. Nobody in this House, least of all the Tories, talked about the democratic rights of Indians. The British arrested Gandhi and Nehru. It was interesting that at a recent dinner organised by the Indian High Commission, the Prince of Wales and the deputy Prime Minister turned up to celebrate the life and work of Pandit Nehru, who was a Socialist and was regularly arrested. When Gandhi began negotiating in Dehli, Churchill used his immortal phrase about the "half-naked fakir loping up the steps of the vice-regal lodge to parley on equal terms with the representatives of the King Emperor." So much for the British attitude to democracy in the empire.
Mr. Benn : I referred to the House of Lords. If we privatised the House of Lords and sold seats in that Chamber, many people would pay half a crown for the right to go there. That might be the way to deal with the second Chamber. I would not rule out the Tories selling off anything--they would sell off the Royal Family if they thought that they could make a quick buck out of it.
Democracy is the struggle for political rights. Power can be abused under any system of government. To
Column 1318purport to say, in a serious motion in this Chamber, that the only repression of human rights that there has ever been has been in the name of Stalinism is wholly false. The hon. Member for Tatton gave me one good thing--his warm approval of Trotsky and Trotsky's critique of Stalinism, which will affect the interest of the national executive committee of the Labour party, from whom the hon. Gentleman may hear in due course. Trotsky was one of the first critics of Stalinism. The Conservative party, which from day one has never understood Socialism, is beginning to realise that there has always been an interesting debate about Socialism within the Labour party.
Under this Government many democratic rights have been taken away. For example, in Britain trade unions now have fewer rights to organise than they do in eastern Europe. The destruction of the Greater London council and the Inner London education authority was one of the greatest attacks of the rights of people in the capital city. Ours is the only country in the western world which does not allow its citizens to elect their local authority.
We have 30,000 American troops in Britain. They were brought in under various Governments. I say that because, as must be obvious, I am not making a party political speech. There are 30,000 American troops here, which is three times as many as we had in India when we occupied that country. We are also controlled by Brussels. Some Conservative Members are beginning to realise that Jacques Delors was not elected. That is an interesting thought, but the IMF was not elected either--nor did we elect President Bush or Vice-President Quayle who command those forces. Only one heartbeat lies between Quayle and his command of the American troops in Britain, which causes me some concern.
I do not believe that the Russians will shift from the dictatorship of the proletariat to the Dow Jones industrial average as their guidance, or from the Gosplan to the Bundesbank because democratic arguments are going on everywhere. I listen--as everyone does, because we cannot do anything about it--to the BBC "Financial World Tonight" with Dominic Harrod saying what has happened to the pound sterling, to three points of decimals, against a basket of European currencies. I have never seen a basket of European currencies, but I shall take one on holiday next time I go. Yet on the basis of the fluctuations of the pound sterling, we are told that we must close a hospital or try to repress the ambulance drivers' pay claim. It is nonsense to say that we live in a democracy, particularly when we have just voted £21 billion for weapons--£371 per man, woman and child-- when no one in Britain now believes that there is a military threat.
I shall say a word or two about the roots of Socialism. One strange idea emanating from Conservative central office is that Socialism was invented in Russia in 1917. The roots of Socialism go back a little further than that. Those who were brought up on the book of Genesis, as I was, will remember that when Cain killed Abel and the Lord had a quiet word with him about it, Cain asked whether he was "his brother's keeper." The answer to the question whether a person is his brother's or sister's keeper lies at the root of modern British Socialism. It can be presented in various other ways--for instance, "an injury to one is an injury to all," "united we stand, divided we fall" and "you do not cross a picket line"--and that directive came not from
Column 1319Brezhnev, but from the book of Genesis. Anyone who thinks that solidarity does not have an ancient religious root had better study history a bit more.
The Church has sometimes got around the question of equality by saying, "Don't worry--if the rich are kind and the poor are patient, it will be all right when we are dead and the angels bring us a cup of tea in the morning." The difference between Socialism and such episcopal fudges is that the Socialists would like the cup of tea before they die. That was how Socialism became a political force. What about economic democracy? The Conservative party has often criticised nationalisation and I have criticised it strongly myself. I never believed that the Alf Robens version of nationalisation was democratic. But what are people in the City of London doing all the time? They are the bureaucrats of international capitalism, moving money about and closing factories to make more money. If a factory is closed for a week by a strike, that is disruption. If it is closed for ever by multinationals, that is market forces at work. The Glasgow media group did a brilliant piece of work on the language of the media. They pointed out that in the media employers "offer and plead" whereas workers "demand and threaten". Let us turn it the other way round and consider the ambulance dispute in that light. The ambulance workers are "offering" to provide an emergency service and "pleading" with the Government not to cut their wages. The Government are "demanding" that they do what they are told and "threatening" to deny them income if they do not. There is a lot more to the argument than we are normally told.
Take economic power. What democracy is there in market forces? The Prime Minister is supposed not to like Jacques Delors because he is not elected, and that is true, but who elects the bankers? I am sorry to say that I was a member of the Cabinet that gave way to the bankers in 1976. We should have told them where to get off. The oil was bubbling ashore, and in my opinion we would have won the 1979 election if we had not imposed an unfair incomes policy on our people to satisfy the IMF. But we learn from our experience. Of course economic democracy, workers' control and industrial democracy are the future, just as political democracy was the great revolution of the 19th century. Whoever believed, before the middle of the 19th century, that the poor had a right to the vote? The country had been run by the rich--the landowners and wealthy gentry in this place. The old political demands of the chartists are now to be replaced by economic chartism.
Socialism is international in character--
Mr. Benn : Perhaps I may finish my point before giving way to the great-grandson of Tom Mann, who is about to intervene to remind us of the terrible family transformation that has occurred since his great- grandfather gave inspiration to the trade union movement. Socialism is international, but that is not surprising, because capitalism is international, too. Business men in Britain have no loyalty to the future of this country. If they could make more money by moving their cash abroad, they would have no hesitation in doing so, even though the profits
Column 1320were created here. Similarly, although the solidarity of labour may be a bit imperfect, there is much more in common between miners worldwide than between miners and their Governments, whether Russian, British or Polish. I give way to the hon. Member for Pembroke.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman can answer two questions. He has told us that the last Labour Government should have told the IMF to get lost. Why does he say, at page 589 of the second volume of his diaries :
"I told the meeting that my paper emphasised that the survival of the Government depended on the maintenance of a relationship of confidence both with the TUC and the IMF"?
What confidence could the IMF have had if the right hon. Gentleman's policy had been followed? Secondly, why in 11 years of Labour Government did the right hon. Gentleman never resign? Mr. Benn : I am flattered that the hon. Gentleman should read the diaries. I hope that he will read them all, and not just the passages drawn to his attention by Tory central office. I recall that passage very well ; it was an abstract of about 2 million words. I said that we should have told the IMF that, with the oil coming ashore, our economy was fundamentally strong and that if it threatened us, we would take the necessary remedial action. I shall not pursue that, because that would be an abuse, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman and I could continue the discussion in the Library of the House or, better still, in the bookshop, where he will no doubt be buying further copies to give to his constituents.
Socialism is indestructible because it is based on the belief that people have inherent rights. Whether they are rich or poor, black or white, disabled or healthy, they have the right to useful work and a living income. They have a right to a good home and to a life-long education. I am all for raising the school leaving age to 95. That is an inch or two ahead of the policy review, so I hope that no one will tell my leader that that is my view. Health care should be available free at the point of need. After all, how many people could afford to meet the cost of ill health without the Health Service? People also have the right to dignity when they are old.
They used to say to me on the BBC, "Where is this Socialism, Mr. Benn?" One need only go to a hospital where people are treated according to their needs ; there one finds Socialism. One need only go to a school, where children have access to the full range of knowledge without paying fees ; there one finds Socialism. The ambulance drivers look after people ; that is Socialism and no amount of private Member's motions will kill it. It is amusing to hear the hon. Member for Tatton try, but I somehow do not think that he will succeed.
In the 20th century, technology has completely transformed the world, with enormous new powers. We have nuclear weapons and nuclear energy and our communications and transport systems have improved enormously. We live in a very small world, any part of which could be destroyed by the use of power by any other part. There are new threats to the environment. The environmental argument is not just about banning diesel smoke in central London. It is about whether the planet is to be used by us as stewards or parcelled up and sold off for profit. The whole environmental argument is about that.
Column 1321We need new institutions in the world. I am a strong believer in making two changes in the United Nations. First, we should abolish the veto in the Security Council for matters concerning planetary protection, such as nuclear and chemical weapons, nuclear power and the environment. I should be content to be governed by a Security Council which safeguarded the planet. Secondly, we should elect the United Nations General Assembly, with perhaps one representative per 5 million people. That would represent a popular United Nations General Assembly.
Certain things should also be decided at continental level. I do not believe that the Commission in Brussels should decide whether we may or may not return to full employment. It should, however, consider environmental and energy questions. Then there are national functions. Local government, too, should be given a full discretion to do whatever is necessary. I have introduced a Bill, the Local Authorities (General Powers) Bill, which would abolish the district auditor. Why should local authorities which have the support of their communities not be allowed to perform their functions? If they are corrupt, take them to the police station ; if they are unpopular, take them to the polling station ; but there should not be one between the polling station and the police station able to prevent local authorities from providing the services that they need to provide.
As must be obvious, we are not having a debate about the policies of the two major parties. We are talking about Socialism, and that is not necessarily the same thing. Nevertheless, I believe that the incoming Labour Government will face formidable problems which have been concealed from us in the past few years. The oil revenues are running out. Investment in manufacturing industry on which we depend has been stagnant since 1979. We have a balance of payments deficit so massive that some direct action will have to be taken. If one uses interest rates, one destroys industry and makes people homeless. Some people say that we could try credit control, but that would mean that the poor could not afford to buy what the rich could buy. We shall have to take direct action, and that will mean import planning. To use the Prime Minister's corner shop parallel, "You can't buy what you can't afford." We cannot afford the mass of imports. We do not have the means to pay for them. And we shall have to have exchange controls because we cannot allow wealth created in Britain to be exported to Korea or South Africa to make a bigger profit for the owners at the expense of the national interest. We shall also have to have very big defence cuts because we cannot afford £21 billion--£371 per man, woman and child in Britain--to pay to fight off a threat that does not exist.
All progress comes from below. I cannot think of a single gain in human history that was first promoted in the Chamber of the House of Commons. We all got here up a ladder labelled "status quo" and the status quo is quite attractive when one has arrived by virtue of it. Some of my colleagues who became Ministers thought that Socialism had arrived when they arrived, and it was an understandable error. When the Permanent Secretary said, "Yes Minister, No Minister" they thought that Socialism had arrived. Herbert Morrison once said that Socialism is what a Labour Government does, which was rather candid. Let us take some examples to show that change comes from below. The war widows cause was fought for and the Government changed their policy. On Sunday
Column 1322shopping, a combination of the churches, the trade unions and the women's movement defeated the Government's campaign. The same is true for the environment--the Prime Minister was never a Green until it looked as though the Greens were going to win.
The demand for social change goes through certain stages. First, it is ignored. Then it is mad--the loony Left. Then it is
dangerous--Militant. Then there is a pause. And then it is impossible to find anyone who was not in favour of it in the first place. That is how all social change occurs. This Parliament is a mirror of the state of play in 1987. It is completely out of date.
I believe that in the 1990s we will see the renewal of Socialism in this country. What is happening in eastern Europe with the democratisation of Socialism is as important as the parliamentary changes which had some impact on Victorian capitalism.
We live in a period of history when for the first time there is enough for everyone in the world. There is enough to eat and enough to give people clean water and proper clinics. There is enough to give them at least elementary education. There is enough, but the distribution of wealth cannot be achieved if it is based on market forces and a jungle philosophy. It can be achieved only by planning, consent, Socialism, democracy and internationalism, all of which Conservative Members loath and hate to the essence of their beings. 11.20 am
Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley) : I have seen the glories of Socialism. Just over a year ago I was being driven in my rather plebian Toyota on a small, dusty road just outside Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, when, all of a sudden my car was forced off the road by a large black Mercedes driven at very high speed. When my taxi driver had recovered sufficiently and had dusted himself off, he told me that in North Korea the centre lane of all major roads was reserved not just for members of the North Korean Communist party, but for the close family of the North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung, whose name translates roughly as Kim the leader or Kim the sun. The leader of another neo-Stalinist type regime, the leader of Derbyshire county council, David Bookbinder, is apparently a great admirer of North Korea. I am pleased to see that there has been a very good turnout of Derbyshire Socialists in the Chamber today. Mr. Harry Barnes rose--
Mr. Oppenheim : I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. The leader of Derbyshire council council sent a delegation to North Korea at the taxpayers' expense. He has also been very closely involved with the North Korean friendship society, which promotes the interests of North Korea and Kim Il Sung's regime.
Mr Barnes rose--
Mr. Barnes : If previously I forgot what point I wanted to make, at least I had the grace to resume my seat. As the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) has nothing to say, I hope that he will do the same.
Column 1323However, I want to make a point about North Korea. People went to North Korea thanks to Derbyshire county council to attend a youth and student festival. It was a great experience and they did not come back with any illusions. I discussed what happened with those people at a meeting and I was told that the experience widened their education and understanding and that they met people from many other countries, many of whom were critical of centralised regimes.
Mr. Oppenheim : Some of the people whom the visitors to North Korea would have met would have been a delegation from Sinn Fein. I wonder how that meeting would have enlarged or broadened their minds. The festival in North Korea was not a broad liberal festival in the sense that it included all shades of opinion. It was set up to promote the interests of a vicious and repressive Stalinist regime.
Although the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East and the leader of Derbyshire county council do not appear to be dissillusioned with North Korea, I had the good fortune to meet recently in a pub in my constituency a former Communist who was once the head of the North Korean friendship society to which I have referred. He told me that he was in a state of total despair about Socialism and Communism. He had visited North Korea on several occasions, and realised what a complete mess Communism was making of things. He confided in me that he would probably vote Conservative at the next general election. Mr. Barnes rose --