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1.17 pm

Mr. Christopher Fraser (Mid-Dorset and North Poole): I compliment my parliamentary colleagues on their excellent speeches. I am proud to speak as the first Member of Parliament for the new constituency of Mid-Dorset and North Poole--a constituency carved out of four previous constituencies. It is a tradition to speak about one's constituency at the beginning of one's maiden speech and I am afraid that I shall not disappoint the House.

I greatly regret that, because of his sad death, I shall no longer be able to call on the services of Sir Nicholas Baker as a neighbour and friend. Part of his constituency is now mine. Sir Nicholas was an industrious parliamentarian and was well respected on both sides of the House; he will be sadly missed. However, I look forward to working with his successor, my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr. Walter). I am also fortunate to share boundaries with my hon. Friends the Members for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) and for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce), some of whose former constituents I have inherited and whose support and advice I received throughout my time as a candidate, in addition to that of John Ward, the retiring Member for Poole, and of his successor, my hon. Friend the new Member for Poole (Mr. Syms).

The parliamentary map certainly changed on 1 May, in Dorset as elsewhere. Before the general election, there were six Tory-held seats in Dorset; on 2 May there were eight. Dorset has received, and with that clean sweep will continue to receive, first-class representation from all its Tory Members. I am honoured now to be among them.

Mid-Dorset and North Poole is two-thirds rural and one-third urban. It incorporates the outstandingly beautiful Wareham forest towards the Isle of Purbeck, with a large industrial base centred on the Saxon-walled town of Wareham, and in north Poole. We are bordered by the Rivers Frome, Piddle and Stour. The area is steeped in history.

Bere Regis is a village in the north-west corner of my constituency--the first place in the country to be given a regal suffix, in recognition of the fact that King John had a hunting lodge in the parish. It is now part of the Purbeck heritage area. The novels of Thomas Hardy feature many landmarks in my constituency.

When the boundary commission created this new constituency, many people were alarmed that the commission appeared to have thrown together parts of four disparate constituencies. However, we are making it work, and since I was selected, we have worked tirelessly to bring together four different traditions, resulting in many people joining our new Conservative association, thus helping us to our tremendous victory on 1 May.

There are seven secondary schools in my constituency, all with active sixth forms, including two grammar schools--Parkstone and Poole, which regularly feature at the top of the league tables--and Canford school, which is independent. As a former local councillor and school governor, I am very much aware of the hard work and

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dedication shown by people working in all types of education and skill centres, and I look forward to supporting their work as a Member of the House.

A sound educational base and the acquisition of vocational skills are essential if my constituents are to become part of a well-qualified, well-equipped, flexible and competitive work force, embracing the technological revolution of the next millennium and continuing to enjoy the success already seen in Mid-Dorset and North Poole.

Dorset parents and teachers are understandably proud of our achievements. We turn out intelligent, skilled young people, many of whom are recruited into engineering, marine and related enterprises. Opportunities abound, for Mid-Dorset and North Poole has a larger industrial base than the rest of Dorset put together.

Those of a sporting disposition, such as myself, are well catered for in mid-Dorset. We have the splendid golf courses of Broadstone, East Dorset and Knighton Heath. There is a new Dorset Racquets club and wonderful countryside for outdoor activities. There is a very active field sport following, with the South Dorset hunt.

Like many other constituencies, the constituency has local environmental issues to be addressed during the life of this Parliament. They include the site of an industrial waste incinerator at Holton heath, the growth of Poole harbour, the proposals for Poole harbour bridge and, more especially for mid-Dorset, the route of any link roads and bypasses. We must find ways to ensure that such infrastructure projects do not threaten the wildlife and natural habitats which make mid-Dorset the beautiful place that it is and which encourage tourism to the county. However, that is for the future.

It was the previous Government's objective that Britain should become

and that objective was being met. I can say with certainty that Mid-Dorset and North Poole is firmly establishing itself as the enterprise centre of Dorset--one has only to consider companies such as Cetrek, Southern Print and Hamworthy Engineering, which produce excellent, competitively priced products, selling throughout the world. They have invested in Mid-Dorset and North Poole, creating employment and success.

Small businesses were the backbone of economic success in the 1980s and will continue to be in the 1990s. It is imperative that in places such as mid-Dorset we continue to work with the training and enterprise councils--for which I have much admiration--Wessex Institute of Directors and the local chamber of commerce, to achieve further success in that sector.

As a result of the efforts of local companies in my constituency and the economic climate created by the previous Conservative Government, our economy is thriving. Unemployment in the Poole area has fallen by 20 per cent. in the past year--a compliment to the employers and employees who have worked towards increased productivity in a wide range of areas.

Europe is, of course, an important and large export market, and cross-channel links are especially important for us in that regard, but we are competing on a world stage, and our businesses and work forces, as well as the products that they produce, must be competitive, and free from job-destroying legislation. The wish of the majority of people in my area is that we trade with Europe, but are

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not absorbed by it. The Government are taking Britain into European policies such as the social chapter and the minimum wage, which will generate unemployment.

I intend to work in partnership with local companies in Dorset. As patron of Firmlink--Dorset's business forum--I shall seek to promote business, employment for young and old alike and enterprise in mid-Dorset. The intention is to become an effective voice for industry and commerce in the county, to ensure that we retain our status as the enterprise centre of Dorset.

My constituents are well served by the national health service. We have excellent local hospitals, the largest of which is Poole Hospital NHS trust, which serves my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Poole. Since becoming a trust in 1992, the hospitalhas increased the number of its nurses and consultantsand is treating nearly twice as many in-patients and150,000 more out-patients. Dorset has many fundholding GPs, and I wish to refer to the opening of the new health centre at Corfe Mullen--a sister to the Broadstone practice--with facilities to carry out operations. I know from experience that local people welcome those developments and recognise the improved service, whereby money is spent close to the patient. I request that the Government tread carefully and with sensitivity if they seek to change the system.

We are also fortunate to be served by Pramacare, Dorset's largest independent local charity, of which I am honoured to be the appeals chairman. We help people in need who do not qualify for social services assistance, ranging from help with household tasks to more full-time care. Short-term residential care is offered to disabled people and their carers by the Holton Lee centre, set in 350 acres of natural landscape near Poole harbour. The centre has just been awarded lottery funding towards the cost of a feasibility study to develop existing care provision. I am very excited by the possibilities that will be created if the balance of the cost can be found.

My priority is to do all I can to ensure that the people of Dorset, and my constituents in particular, get as good a deal under this Labour Government as they did under the Conservative Government. Government interference and bureaucracy must not stifle the success that we are seeing in mid-Dorset. Governments do not create jobs--businesses do.

When we look back at the first Budget from a Labour Government for 18 years, we shall remember two things--more taxes and more spending. That used to be called a "tax and spend" Budget. Who said old Labour was dead? The most serious aspect is that it is a short-term Budget. The Chancellor wants us to take seriously his conversion to low tax and enterprise, but he must understand our remaining scepticism.

There are, of course, some things that we can welcome. Reduced corporation tax should help small companies build on their recent success, and we all know that it is a dynamic private sector which funds the public sector. However, the elements of the Budget dealing with social provision give rise to concern. First, the end of tax relief for private health care for pensioners means that those pensioners may now decide to go back to the NHS, which will put an extra burden on the service. When put in that light, the extra resource is not as good as it sounds.

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Secondly, I wish to refer to the tax on private pension funds. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), the former Secretary of State for Social Security--with whom I know the Minister for Welfare Reform often agrees--said, this is the "Robert Maxwell memorial Budget". We have more money invested in funds than the rest of Europe put together, so this is no time to hammer those who manage--in the true sense--the future of private pensions.

Thirdly, I wish to refer to welfare to work. Leaving aside the dubious nature of a retrospective windfall tax and its possible implications for investment, I should say that I approach this with an open mind. However, I would rather it was approached with an open market. As hon. Members know, youth unemployment has been falling sharply recently. That is due to the actions not of the Secretary of State for Social Security, but of wealth-creating and risk-taking entrepreneurs the length and breadth of Britain.

No one disputes the need to ensure that as many young people as possible enter the world of work at the earliest opportunity. We all agree with that. However, the Government do not seem to have thought the proposals through, nor taken heed of the failed attempts in other countries to implement welfare-to-work schemes. The Australian experience was not a happy one--large amounts of public money were spent to little long-term effect. How will the schemes help school leavers looking for their first job? How many people who are not eligible for the proposed subsidy will find their jobs taken by those who are? The devil is in the detail.

I have fears and a hope. I fear that the temptation to interfere, to spend and to regulate will prove too much for the Government to resist and I fear that they will destroy the wealth and job creation that we have created. My one hope is that I am wrong, but only time will tell.

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