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The Minister for Education and Industry, Scottish Office (Mr. Brian Wilson): Does the hon. Gentleman understand that, in order to sustain his excellent thesis, there has to be a permanent Labour Government?

Mr. Robathan: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that suggestion. He should cast his mind back, young as he might be, to the 1950s, when more than 50 per cent. of Scots voted for the Conservatives. He might find that again in four or five years' time--who knows?

We are told that the Scots--as well as the Welsh--are a nation, and I am very happy to believe that. Surely, if the Scots are a nation, all members of the nation should have a vote in a referendum. I am not in any way criticising the hon. Members for Coventry, South (Mr. Cunningham) and for Leeds, East (Mr. Mudie) or my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) and my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox)--they are all very Scottish people. Should not they too have a vote? They are surely part of a Scots nation. I suggest that, since they were born and raised in Scotland, they have more right to vote in some referendum than, for instance, the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Ms Squire), who--I think--would always claim to be English.

We remember Lord Callaghan, the previous Labour Prime Minister--a great success he was, too. Should he not have a vote in some referendum on a Welsh Assembly? My father, who is still alive, was born in Llandaff. Why should the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), be more a member of a Welsh nation than my father? There is great illogicality in the argument.

There is talk in the Queen's Speech of governing for the benefit of the whole nation, yet the proposed Assembly and Parliament will divide the nation. The British are a nation. As I look around the House, I see that we are all one nation. I certainly consider myself British before I consider myself English. I am going to Scotland for the Whitsun recess--God willing we have one. Scotland is part of the nation of which I am a member. I do not believe that devolution will improve the

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nation--quite the contrary. People in Britain, not just those in Scotland and Wales, should have a vote in any referendum.

If we were to put up a sign saying, "Scots Out", we would quite rightly be criticised for racialism, yet when I last drove along the motorway from Edinburgh airport towards Linlithgow, I saw big signs saying, "English Out". In some ways, Scottish nationalism has become respectable. It should not be. It is as nasty, petty-minded, mean-minded, small-minded and racialist as anything the British National party comes up with.

Education is also a major plank of the Queen's Speech. I wish the Government well. I applaud almost everything that they have said in the Queen's Speech on education. They are returning to the old-fashioned three Rs. The Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned discipline twice on Radio 4 this morning. I was so glad to hear a Labour Member talking about discipline.

What has Labour education policy meant in my lifetime? Out went old-fashioned learning, the three Rs and school discipline, and in came child-centred education--whatever that means--open-plan classrooms and the rowdiness that one gets now, which are the politics and policies of the left. In Leicestershire in the early 1970s, I am told that, when the county council fell briefly and sadly to the Labour party, the first act of the Labour-controlled education authority was to abolish school uniform. There was no consultation. Now, so many schools are bringing school uniform back for all sorts of good reasons.

Such politically correct policies and claptrap were damaging to education. Teachers, of whom there may be some on the Government Benches and some sitting behind me, said, "Call me Jack, call me Jill." To that I would say, "Call me Jack, call me Jill, call me Tony." Lack of respect for authority has been bred in our schools. Are we to believe that, after all the harm done by their predecessors in the 1960s and 1970s, the new Labour Government will restore our education to the position in which it ought to be--to the position it was in when I was a child?

During the election campaign, I met people who had such closed minds. They said to me, "I am a teacher; I must vote Labour." That is very distressing. Teachers are meant to broaden the minds of our young. The best primary schools that I have visited in my constituency since becoming a Member of Parliament have always said that they are old-fashioned and have, in their words, rejected the trendy ideas of the 1960s.

Such ideas were of the left and have harmed the education of so many children; indeed, they are still doing so in places such as Islington. If they are not harming education, why has the Prime Minister taken his child out of an Islington school and sent him to wherever he has sent him? Why has the Secretary of State for Social Security sent her child to a grammar school? Everyone must ask that question. I wish the Government well on education. Time will tell; perhaps they will do better than the Conservatives did. We shall watch.

The lack of discipline and direction in schools is closely linked to juvenile offenders. I wish the Government well in their determination to crack down on juvenile offenders, something which the Conservative Government tried to do for some years, without any support from the Labour party.

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I think that I am the only Member of the House who served in the Gulf war as a member of the armed forces. I do not believe that there is such a thing as Gulf war syndrome. I think that there is organophosphate poisoning and there may be other illnesses as well. I welcome more research, but I caution the Government that just because people who served in the Gulf are ill does not mean that they are ill because they served in the Gulf.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mrs. Kennedy) may wish to tell the Ministry of Defence that I am happy to help in any inquiry. I heard the Minister for the Armed Forces say that he wanted to get service men from the Gulf through the doors of the Ministry of Defence. I will come.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian): Does the hon. Gentleman want a job?

Mr. Robathan: That is kind of the hon. Gentleman, but no, not on this occasion.

The defence review has been made much of. Three years ago we had a defence review called "Front Line First". The Labour party's instinct is to oppose greater spending on the armed forces. Its instinct is to cut defence spending. I suffered for five years as a member of the Army under the previous Labour Government. The House should note that the armed forces will not benefit from this defence review. I fear that, as night follows day, their numbers will be cut.

Mr. Home Robertson: That is a bit much coming from the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Robathan: I have never cut anything in defence--not willingly, anyway.

The Labour party won the election with a smaller percentage of votes than the Conservative Government in 1992. Nevertheless, it has a mandate. However, it does not have an overwhelming mandate to destroy the United Kingdom and its traditions, or to alter our lives beyond recognition. I congratulate the Government. The British people have the right to choose their Government. The Labour Government will have a limited tenure. They are tenants; they do not have the freehold, as the previous Conservative Government found out only 10 days ago.

Already the Prime Minister--or Tony, as we must call him--is acting as a bit of a dictator. He is but one of 659 Members of Parliament. I found his behaviour during the election campaign disappointing. I use that word advisedly, because his allegation that the Conservative party planned to privatise the state pension was not true and he knew it to be not true. The same applies to the scares about VAT on food and the NHS. They were disappointing. That must cast a shadow over what, to quote many of the newspapers, is a new Camelot.

Twenty years ago almost to the day, the last Labour Prime Minister appointed his 40-year-old son-in-law ambassador in Washington. That was an astonishing act of nepotism, which would rightly be condemned in a Conservative Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has begun by appointing the man who introduced him to his wife as Lord Chancellor and an old flatmate as Solicitor-General. I should have thought that among the 400-odd Labour Members of Parliament there must surely be someone who is capable of being Solicitor-General without appointing a chum.

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If I sat on the Government Benches, which I do not, I would be worried, but I congratulate the new Government. They have the country in trust for the whole nation and for future generations. They should not harm it. They should be judged by their achievements and their actions and by the effect that they have on the United Kingdom.

8.33 pm

Mr. Philip Hope (Corby): As the Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Corby, I am delighted to be able to make my maiden speech on this first day of debate on the Loyal Address on the Queen's Speech of the new Labour Government.

The Co-operative party is a sister party of the Labour party and I shall make it my business to pursue the ideals and practicalities of co-operation in terms of both legislative and wider support for the co-operative movement.

My predecessor, William Powell, was a hard-working Member of Parliament who paid particular attention to individual constituents' problems. He fully lived up to the standards that he set himself.

The Corby constituency is unique. It is a combination of the urban town of Corby and the rural area of east Northamptonshire, which contains many villages and the market towns of Oundle, Thrapston, Raunds and Irthlingborough. Corby itself is a former steel-producing town. It still has a tube manufacturing plant employing nearly 1,000 people. I am concerned at today's announcement of the loss of 134 jobs at that tube-making plant, and I shall seek reassurances from British Steel that steel tube production in Corby will continue to have a solid future.

As many hon. Members may also know, Corby has a large Scots community. In many ways, the spirit of Scotland is present, strong and proud. Only last weekend, the Caledonian Club football team reached the Wembley cup final of the inter-club national football competition, putting Corby on the map in a big way.

Corby and east Northamptonshire has a growing local economy. I pay tribute to Corby's borough council for its tremendous work in attracting inward investment, building local community organisations and creating real optimism for the future in a town that has suffered badly for many years.

The constituency also has unique features and attractions for economic growth. The town has a willing work force and, as a result of the closure of the steel-making plant, land is available for development. We have superb road links east, west, north and south, and we have possibly the first, and unique, road-rail interchange in Eurohub, which allows mile-long trains carrying 300 cars at a time to travel all the way from Corby to Paris, thereby developing and improving Corby as an inland port for imports and exports.

It is ironic that we can move freight all the way from Corby to Paris in about four hours, but do not have a passenger rail link from Corby to Kettering, the nearest Midland Main Line railway station. I shall be making it my business to see if we can put that right in order to give Corby a further economic asset.

A major priority must be to build on Corby's tremendous strengths so that it can achieve a high-wage, high-skill, local economy which is prosperous and can provide genuine economic opportunities for all.

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However, not surprisingly after 18 years of Conservative government, the constituency continues to have problems. In the rural areas, there is a complete absence of any real public transport. We need and look forward to innovative transport packages to deal with the problems faced by the many people who live in poverty and social isolation in rural areas. Transport will play a key part in solving their problems and meeting their needs.

In Corby, we have the problem of unscrupulous employment agencies which offer people temporary employment and zero-hour contracts with no insurance, pension, sick pay, training or job security. Young people aged 19 stand on the streets of Corby waiting for the agency bus to take them to a factory which, if it has no work, will simply tell them to get back on the bus and go home. That is no way for young people to start a working life. I shall be pushing for our fair employment proposals to ensure that unscrupulous employment agencies are fully controlled.

The national minimum wage announced in the Queen's Speech will be a major plank of security for young people who so often find themselves exploited.

I shall also seek to deal with recent problems associated with gas supplies; 5,000 households recently found their supply cut off when a subcontractor for Anglian Water managed, spectacularly, to drill through their water and gas mains in one dig. The Lodge Park and Shire Lodge estates in Corby were completely flooded, with water coming out of people's gas cookers. It was astonishing, and it took nearly 12 days for some people to be reconnected. An emergency was declared, and the county council, the borough council and the voluntary organisations, including the British Red Cross and the Women's Royal Voluntary Service were superb in dealing with it.

The problem we have now is getting fair compensation for people who were without hot water, hot food or any heating for up to 12 days. The announcement that British Gas will pay only £100 to every household is not good enough. We need to fight for better compensation.

Another local concern in Corby is the recent outbreak of legionnaire's disease. There have been 23 victims, and one person died this February. This is not a problem only for Corby, but a national problem. We must consider how we will prevent and control the legionella disease. It is a hidden problem that, in the next few months, will need much attention. I am delighted to see in the Queen's Speech that attention will be paid to public health. We have a new Minister for public health. I suspect that we will start work on the issue urgently in the next few days.

The good news for Corby and east Northamptonshire in the Queen's Speech is also the emphasis on education. I have visited many schools in the past few weeks, as I am sure have other hon. Members. I have visited schools throughout the constituency, both primary and secondary. The governors and staff of those schools cannot wait for some of the measures in today's Queen's Speech to be implemented. The abolition of the nursery voucher scheme raised a cheer in one staff room that I went to visit. It will be abolished so that we can create common sense and a planned approach to nursery provision for all four-year-olds.

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How desperately smaller class sizes are needed in Corby, as are higher standards in all our schools. Taking 250,000 young people off the dole and into jobs, education and training will have enormous benefits for the young people in Corby, who genuinely feel that they have been dumped on the scrap heap by the previous Government. They look forward to the opportunities that we will be able to bring them. All those measures mentioned and highlighted in the Queen's Speech will be of direct benefit to schools in the Corby constituency. It will make a difference and it will make things better.

I look forward to representing the interests of all the peoples and all the communities of Corby and east Northamptonshire with commitment and enthusiasm. I believe that I am unique in being able to say that the people of Corby constituency were the only people in the country who actually voted for Hope for the future.

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