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9.6 pm

Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood): I am not sure about the protocol of one maiden speaker complimenting another, but I should like to compliment the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) on her maiden speech. As a student of history, I found her description of the history of her constituency fascinating. Many of us have visited it because of its historical links. I am sure that we all agree that it is beautiful.

I noted with interest the hon. Lady's comments on pollution and noise from aeroplanes. We are trying to expand Blackpool airport. We want the best mix of more airport traffic and the minimum of pollution.

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I am grateful to be called to make my maiden speech in such an important debate which covers so many complex areas. I feel very privileged to be the first Member of Parliament for the new constituency of Blackpool, North and Fleetwood. I am grateful to the electorate for allowing me to represent them.

Although my constituency has substantially redrawn boundaries, I should like to say a few words about Harold Elletson, the previous Member for Blackpool, North. He built a reputation in the House as an expert on eastern Europe and Russia. He is a fluent Russian speaker and brought his expert knowledge to bear on the often complex issues raised by the fall of the iron curtain and the disintegration of the Russian empire. We disagreed on many other topics, but I acknowledge his expertise in certain areas of foreign policy and I certainly cannot compete with him when it comes to speaking Russian.

Maiden speeches are an opportunity to describe one's constituency. I am sure that the Blackpool part of my constituency needs little introduction. Hon. Members will have visited it to attend conferences, if not on holiday. Blackpool is the nation's favourite holiday resort, offering a wide variety of choices for visitors. It has large, internationally known hotels along the north shore and many smaller, family-run hotels and guest houses behind the promenade, offering their famous friendly service. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will acknowledge the importance of the tourism industry to this country and that he will, perhaps, in discussions with his European colleagues look at integrating a European tourism strategy with the strategy for this country. I encourage as many hon. Members as possible to come and enjoy Blackpool's wonderful facilities.

My constituency stretches from Blackpool's north pier and follows the coast beyond the boundary of Blackpool to Thornton Cleveleys. Here, visitors find a quiet residential area with a bustling centre which attracts coachloads of visitors to its thriving shops. The more adventurous visitor may, however, stay on the tram from Blackpool as it completes its journey all the way to Fleetwood.

Fleetwood has a fascinating history. It takes its name from Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood whose dream it was in the early 19th century to establish a commercial port and holiday resort on his land adjoining Morecambe bay. Sir Peter modelled his new town of Fleetwood on another purpose-built seaside resort, St. Leonards on Sea near Hastings, and commissioned a renowned London architect, Decimus Burton, to design the town. He was determined that Fleetwood would be a splendid place to attract his friends from London and visitors from all over the country. He even built a new railway to link London Euston to the North Euston station in Fleetwood. Some of the original buildings still exist, although not the railway station. In 1847, Queen Victoria visited Fleetwood and many of the streets in the town were named after members of the royal family in honour of the visit.

Although the area that I represent is best known for tourism, many of my constituents work for three large local employers--the civil service, British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace, which was mentioned earlier in the debate. We all acknowledge the importance of the Eurofighter project to the local economy not only of Blackpool, North and Fleetwood but of the whole of Lancashire.

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It is because of Fleetwood's role as a fishing port that I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate on Europe. To most of the people of Fleetwood, Europe means one issue--fishing quotas and the regulations that govern the lives of those who work in what is, unfortunately, a dramatically reduced fishing industry. I therefore welcome this debate and the motion, which refers to


I ask the Foreign Secretary not to lose sight of the importance of the fishing industry to my constituents and to other fishing ports around these shores when he has discussions with his European colleagues on the general initiatives on employment. I understand that fishing is not specifically on the agenda for the forthcoming summit, but it is clearly vital to those who are interested in Europe as well as in protecting their own fishing industries.

Beyond doubt, in recent years our fishermen have faced severe and increasing difficulties in striving to operate viably and legitimately under the European common fisheries policy. Urgent solutions are required if our industry is to survive, and we should address especially the issue of quota hopping, which was mentioned earlier. Some 26 per cent. of the quota allocated by Brussels to British fishermen is caught by quota hoppers. Fleetwood has a wonderful museum outlining its fascinating past and celebrating its role as a fishing port. The trawler Jacinta is moored and preserved as a museum piece. It would be dreadful, however, if our children lived in a world where the fishing fleet existed only in museums and in history books. I share my right hon. Friends' belief in strong leadership in Europe that focuses on employment and competitiveness so that Fleetwood has a future as well as a past.

9.13 pm

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): I congratulate the hon. Members for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) and for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) on their maiden speeches. The hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood lived up to her name. Both hon. Members will fulfil their aspirations and match the reputations of the previous Members for those constituencies.

The Foreign Secretary made great play of quoting policies of direct benefit to the peoples of Europe, particularly initiatives on employment and competitiveness. Perhaps the Government should reconsider the fact that their proposed windfall tax was designed to help young people in particular. I gather that they intend to use the proceeds to help the 250,000 young people who are out of work. They may be interested to know that fewer than 200,000 young people stand to benefit. The Government should accept that, by introducing a minimum wage, they will put 250,000 young people out of work, so they will need to introduce the windfall tax to compensate them.

The Foreign Secretary said that the concept of sister parties was unknown to the Conservatives. I remind the Government that we pioneered the concept of sister parties within the European Union, not least through our membership of the European Democratic Union and the Christian Democratic Union.

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I wish also to bring to the Government's attention the fact that the French centre-right Government's failure to return to power was not due to their preparations for economic and monetary union; it was because they were implementing an austerity package and pursuing the same Thatcherite policies that we pursued since 1979, and that are now embraced by the Government--low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment and privatisation of national industries.

By signing up to the social chapter, we would lose us our right to choose. The director general of the Confederation of British Industry said:


I invite the Government, therefore, not to sign up to the social chapter but to continue the opt-out negotiated by the previous Government.

The Foreign Secretary referred to his "modest" objective of signing up to an additional employment chapter. That is not a modest objective. I am fearful as to its consequences and how it would be interpreted: for instance, notably, the working time directive and health and safety provisions would inevitably have unhappy consequences for the United Kingdom.

May I seek in my humble capacity as a new Member to give the Cabinet some advice on which policies need to be reformed before we proceed to enlarge the European Union, as the Foreign Secretary intends? Principally, reform of the common agricultural policy should have regard not just to environmental guidelines but to rural development policy. I invite the Government to inform us tonight whether they intend to follow that course.

A number of Labour Members have spoken about the objective 1 benefits which the European social fund and the European regional development fund bring to their constituencies. Obviously, such assistance is dependent on additional government funding. Will the Chief Secretary to the Treasury inform us whether he intends to continue with that additional funding in the foreseeable future and to what extent he envisages radical reform of the European social fund and the European regional development fund and, in particular, discontinuation of the cohesion policy, which seems to be relevant only to the Mediterranean countries?

I invite the Government to revise the timetable for economic and monetary union, recognising the fact that no member state other than Luxembourg will be in a position to join by 1 January 1999. I invite them also to sign up to the fact that the best European social and employment practice is that achieved under the previous Government, and that should form the basis of any social and employment chapter.

On behalf of those of us who continue to have the pleasure of serving in the European Parliament, I invite the Government to consider that there should be less rivalry and more of a partnership between the House and the European Parliament. I should like to voice my reservations about the proposals in the Government motion and I beg the House to accept the Opposition amendment.

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