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Column 701

Sproat, Iain

Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Steen, Anthony

Stephen, Michael

Stern, Michael

Stewart, Allan

Streeter, Gary

Sumberg, David

Sweeney, Walter

Sykes, John

Tapsell, Sir Peter

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Taylor, John M (Solihull)

Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd)

Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)

Temple-Morris, Peter

Thomason, Roy

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)

Thornton, Sir Malcolm

Thurnham, Peter

Townend, John (Bridlington)

Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)

Tracey, Richard

Tredinnick, David

Trend, Michael

Trimble, David

Trotter, Neville

Twinn, Dr Ian

Vaughan, Sir Gerard

Viggers, Peter

Waldegrave, Rt Hon William

Walden, George

Walker, Bill (N Tayside)

Waller, Gary

Ward, John

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Waterson, Nigel

Watts, John

Wells, Bowen

Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John

Whitney, Ray

Whittingdale, John

Widdecombe, Ann

Wiggin, Sir Jerry

Wilkinson, John

Willetts, David

Wilshire, David

Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)

Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)

Wolfson, Mark

Wood, Timothy

Yeo, Tim

Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes: Mr. Sydney Chapman and Mr. Timothy Kirkhope.

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Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.


That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:-- Most Gracious Sovereign,

We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

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Labour Market

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Wells.]

10.29 pm

Mr. David Evans (Welwyn Hatfield): I did not ask for this debate on instructions from No. 10 or from the Whips Office. If Keir Hardie had not invented the Labour party, Jeremy Beadle would have done. Labour Members surely represent the biggest practical joke ever played on the British people. It might even be funny, if the consequences for the country were not so dire.

I pay tribute to Janus--no, not Janice, but the two-headed Roman god of beginnings, after whom the month of January was named. Janus's two heads enabled him to look back to the past while facing the future. I would like to emulate that technique this evening, as I believe that we need to look to the disastrous conditions of the previous Labour Government before we can fully appreciate the miraculous achievements of the Conservative Government throughout the 1980s and 1990s in setting the foundations for an exciting future which will continue to bring prosperity to the nation.

A trip down memory lane is necessary to inform and warn an ever-growing section of the electorate who are too young to remember the Frankenstein horrors of the previous Labour Government, although the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) is a passable imitation of the real thing from Count Dracula's castle--he certainly scares me--and so have little understanding of the reality of voting Labour.

To enable the Government to focus on a policy for the labour market today, they had to consider what happened during the late 1970s. Even to this day, the scars are visible for all to see. No one will forget--that lot over there would like us to forget--the previous Labour Prime Minister, having returned from a trip to sunny Barbados in January 1979, saying, "Crisis-- what crisis?" The crisis, which everyone except he and his Cabinet could see, was only too evident. I could give a hundred reasons to highlight that fact, but, for the purposes of this debate, I will focus on 10.

One: rats as big as cats were running around Leicester square, where the capital's refuse was being dumped because members of the Transport and General Workers Union, supported by their sponsored Labour Members of Parliament, refused to collect the rubbish. Two: the dead lay unburied outside our cemeteries because the TGWU, supported by sponsored Labour Members, refused to dig the graves or to let the corpses cross the picket lines.

Three: patients were not admitted to hospitals, nor were vital drugs and medicines allowed in, because the National Union of Public Employees and the Confederation of Health Service Employees, again supported by sponsored Labour Members, said no. Our reforms have meant that, every week, 40,000 more patients are treated in the national health service than was the case in 1979--instead of 40,000 more union meetings.

Four: we have to remember, too, the humiliation of the Chancellor of the day, a certain Denis Healey, who boasted that he would turn the economy round. The only thing he turned round was the 747 taking him to America, because on that morning the International Monetary Fund, or, as I call it, the receiver, had refused to lend the United

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Kingdom any more money. In other words, we were bust, with our name being dragged through the gutters of Europe, and our national pride gone. Under Labour, Great Britain did not mean Great Britain, it meant "gone bust".

Five: who can believe now that, in 1979, one was allowed to take only £50 per year out of the country to go on holiday? Labour believed that, if it allowed any more to be taken out, it would all go overnight to foreign countries, where people's money would be safe and not subject to the ravages of inflation in the United Kingdom. While we are talking about £50, who did not pay the pensioners their £50 Christmas bonus when they were in power?

Six: who can believe now that, under the last Labour Government, inflation reached a peak of 27 per cent., and that, on a weekly shopping trip, every can of beans had acne? It was possible to peel off four or five price increase stickers--and that was just in one week.

Seven: when the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)--or is it Belgravia? --regularly talks about closing pits and sacking miners, roared on by his colleagues, he should remember that facts are facts. The Labour Governments of 1964-70 and 1974-79 closed 313 pits-- [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes): Order. We could do with a little more quiet.

Mr. Evans: --with the loss of 205,700 jobs. Between 1974 and 1979, the Labour Government were committed to expanding the market for coal; in fact, output fell by 16 per cent. in that period, from 142 million tons to 119 million. A former Labour Energy Minister, now Lord Marsh, said on 20 October 1992:

"We genuinely believed that with a benevolent mixture of good intentions and massive subsidies we could reverse"--

I repeat: reverse--

"the market trend.

My Lords, we completely misled ourselves and them."--[ Official Report , House of Lords, 20 October 1992; Vol. 539, c. 692.] By "them" he meant the miners.

Eight: what was the higher rate of tax in 1979? With the higher rate now at 40 per cent., it seems inconceivable to us now. Was it 50 per cent.? [Hon. Members:-- "Higher."] Was it 60 per cent.? [Hon. Members:-- "Higher."] Was it 70 per cent.? [Hon. Members:-- "Higher."] Was it 80 per cent.? [Hon. Members:-- "Higher."] Was it 90 per cent.? [Hon. Members:-- "Higher."] Was it 95 per cent.? [Hon. Members:-- "Higher.] Was it 98 per cent.? [Hon. Members:-- "Unbelievable!"] And some of us actually managed to pay 103p in the pound.

Nine: the present leader of the Labour party tries to rewrite Labour's history in order to keep up with our agenda, having to eat his words daily. Over the past 20 years, his party has changed its mind no fewer than eight times over whether we should be in or out of Europe, and pledged allegiance to a non-nuclear defence policy. It is funny how people and times change-- or is it promotion that does it? With regard to Europe, it is worth mentioning that every member of today's shadow Cabinet, as a Member of Parliament in 1972, voted against British entry. On defence, even at this year's Labour party conference--

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Before the hon. Gentleman continues, may I point out that the choice of

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topic was his, that topic being Government policy. To me, that did not suggest past Government policies. I think that the hon. Gentleman should now come to the title of his Adjournment debate.

Mr. Evans: Forgive me, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am trying to paint a picture--

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I know very well what the hon. Gentleman is trying to do; I am saying that he must come to the point.

Mr. Evans: People today do not believe that 13 million days were lost under Labour in the 1970s owing to strikes, as against just under half a million lost in 1993.

Those are some of the reasons why Labour lost the general election in 1979; lost the general election in 1983; lost the general election in 1987; and lost the general election in 1992. Labour has played four and lost four. Even Graham Taylor had a better record than that as manager of the England football team.

It is a simple rule of government that, in order to fight unemployment and develop the conditions for growth, investment and job creation, it is vital that the strategy towards the labour market is built upon the foundations of solid and sensible economic policies.

The next time that that lot on the Opposition Benches have the audacity to criticise the Government's economic policy, I should like to play to them the video of the winter of discontent--strikes, inflation, taxes and misery, the four corners of socialism throughout the world.

Since 1979, it has been the task of Conservative Governments to pick up the pieces from the socialist suicide of the seventies. We like a challenge. We leave that lot on the Opposition Benches to do the whingeing. We get on with the job--and what is more, we deliver. Conservative Governments' top priority has been to reduce inflation so that business can have a firm and steady basis on which to plan and invest. We delivered.

In 1993, inflation remained below 3 per cent. for 12 months, the first time that that has happened since 1960. Inflation currently stands at 2.4 per cent., the lowest it has been for 30 years. Compare that with our international competitors. In Germany, inflation stands at 3 per cent. and in Italy it is 4.1 per cent.

We cut taxes to encourage enterprise and initiative. Since 1979, the basic rate of income tax has been brought down from 33p to 25p. Beer and sandwiches at No.10 are gone for ever. Since 1979, exports have risen by three quarters. By taming the unions, we have got the country working again, and working hard. The United Kingdom rose to the top of the productivity growth league in the 1980s, having been at the bottom in the 1960s and 1970s.

Manufacturing industry has been transformed under Conservative management. Britain is now an international leader in key sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals and telecommunications. It was only by defeating the unions that we could regain Britain's position as an industrial world leader and give British management the confidence, freedom and incentive to manage properly and professionally.

Nowadays, when one mentions unions, there is an eerie silence on the Opposition Benches. That silence is caused by confusion. On the one hand, the unions still give Opposition Members a nice juicy pay cheque at the end of each week. Every Member of the shadow Cabinet is

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sponsored by a union. They have a cheek to talk about sleaze. What is more sleazy than a block vote or a late night shop stewards' election? Labour party policy emanates from their back pockets. On the one hand, the unions are still Labour's paymasters, but on the other hand there is the so-called "new look" Labour party, led by the right hon. Member for Sedgefield, who looks more like a ladies' hairdresser than a credible statesman. He lacks only a velvet jacket and a pouffy buttonhole to become the Teazy-Weazy of the trade unions.

That has resulted in a form of political schizophrenia. When addressing a conference of business men, the Labour leadership, Mr. Trade Union Teazy- Weazy promises not to amend trade union laws that we have established, but when the deputy leader addresses the unions, he talks of taxing the undeserving rich, of minimum wages and of reforming Tory laws. Like Janus, they face both ways. If fact, if one compares the Labour leader's speeches with those of the deputy leader, it is difficult to tell whether they are on their janus or their anus. Will the real Labour party please stand up, or is it too late? The Conservative party's policy on the labour market is the one that delivers the goods. Unemployment in Britain fell again last month by 45,000 to 2.5 million. That marked the eighth successive monthly fall, and fits into a consistent downward spiral in unemployment since 1992.

Our achievement in the labour market compares very favourably with that of our European counterparts. For example, unemployment in the United Kingdom is 8.9 per cent. That is well below the rate in France, which is 11.3 per cent. It is 12 per cent. in Italy and a staggering 21.8 per cent. in Spain. It is worth noting that Spain has a minimum wage. Need I say more?

Throughout the 1980s, the Conservative Government saw the importance of providing the nation's children with an education to equip them with the skills that they would need to enable them to compete in a future labour market. About £2.8 billion a year is spent by the Government on training, enterprise and vocational education. That is two-and-a-half times more in real terms than under Labour in 1979.

In addition, spending per pupil under the Conservatives has risen by 47 per cent. in real terms since 1979 Spending on books and equipment has risen by 31 per cent. in real terms since 1979. Average teachers' pay has risen by 57 per cent. on the same basis since 1979.

Conservative reforms and policies have worked. That is plain for all to see. In Europe, 40 per cent. of all inward investment comes to Britain. Foreign companies are flooding into Britain to take advantage of our sound eonomy, our low taxation and the skills of our honest work force.

Britain, the poor man of Europe in the 1970s--there was the brain drain, when all our best doctors, business men and scientists left for foreign parts-- has become the investment magnet of Europe. How can that lot over there on the Opposition Benches seriously question anyone on economic policy when they remain committed to clause IV? Their commitment to nationalisation shows that, despite the recent influx of slick party political broadcasts,

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