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Dr. Rudi Vis (Finchley and Golders Green): In making my maiden speech, I am most grateful for the advice that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, gave me earlier today. I represent Finchley and Golders Green. It is a tremendous honour to represent Finchley; I usually wait a little while before saying "Golders Green". That is not quite the way in which I want to put it; I will come to my predecessors in a moment.

I have listened to quite a number of maiden speeches, including the one made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Sawford). When considering all the good maiden speeches, I tried to make a distinction between those hon. Members who spoke without notes and those who spoke with notes. My view was that if they were of equal value, I would go for those speeches made without notes. I intended to be in the emulation business, but when I considered the matter in the days prior to my speech, I felt that my emulation would compete strongly with my human frailty--in this case, specifically, my forgetfulness. I thought, "Who will win between emulation and frailty?" I wrote my speech, but I have forgotten my glasses so whatever I have written down, I cannot read. I have in front of me a number of sheets covered with very large letters to remind me of some of the highlights. I can tell hon. Members that they have now missed the best speech in the House for a considerable time. They will, unfortunately, now not hear it; they will hear only a short summary. I am very sorry about that.

I have a few comments to make about my predecessors. My constituency is Finchley and Golders Green, and I do not make a joke about Golders Green. Finchley is proud

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to have the Hampstead Garden Suburb, Golders Green and Childs Hill wards embroidered on to it. We always had to work hard, especially when Mrs. Thatcher was Prime Minister, to come a decent second. The problem with standing in the Prime Minister's constituency is that 10 or 20 other parties also field candidates. As it costs only £500 to stand as a candidate, those parties pay a low price for television coverage. We always worked hard to come a good second to Mrs. Thatcher whom we never thought we could unseat--and so it turned out. Her own party did it for us.

My immediate predecessors were Mr. Hartley Booth, who represented Finchley, and Mr. Marshall, who represented Hendon, South. These two guys fought it out against one another and because one bussed in rather more supporters than the other, it was Mr. Marshall who won the selection. I distinctly remember reading in all the local newspapers that he would be the next Member of Parliament for Finchley and Golders Green. We had a good fight.

Both those gentlemen are honourable gentlemen and I have always been treated extraordinarily nicely by both of them. Mr. Marshall was a hands-on man in many ways; he knew an enormous number of his constituents. I do not think I can equal him in that respect, especially in terms of my Jewish constituents; I honour him for his relationship with the Jewish community. I will do my best to emulate that part of my predecessor although there are other parts of him that I would not wish to emulate.

Mr. Hartley Booth was a slightly different kind of man; he was a grand design man. He did not know all that many of his constituents, but he was a very thoughtful man and I honour him as my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering honoured his predecessor. Both are very honourable men, but there is one difference between my two predecessors. They both had considerable outside interests, but they did not entirely overlap.

It is more difficult to refer to Mrs. Thatcher. I have been in local government for many years. Every time Mrs. Thatcher came to the constituency, she would invite me to see her. She was unfailingly charming and could always remember far more than I could remember, even if I had prepared myself. She would always say hello and remember people's names. I have enormous respect for her, but, fortunately for her perhaps, I must say that there my Thatcherism stops. I have never had any desire to emulate any of her policies. I believe that she will go down in history as a remarkable woman, most of her remarkableness being bringing this nation to its knees. I must, however, remember with warmth her invitations to me. There is a difficulty, as I have explained, and I am definitely not a Thatcherite in a political sense.

The House will know that my constituency is in the London borough of Barnet. I shall not say much about its infrastructure because I am not much into that. It is seen as a wealthy borough, and as a result we have never had the benefit of an SRB--a single regeneration budget grant. Yet Barnet is among the 10 poorest boroughs in dealing with housing the homeless. In future, we may get an SRB.

The difficulty for an area such as Barnet and for the constituency that I represent is that there is enormous wealth enjoyed by those living only a few hundreds yards away from grave poverty in tower blocks.

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5.30 pm

During the middle 1980s, I was a member of the local planning committee. The committee was engaged in considering planning permission for a home in the Bishop's avenue, and the price of the property became £12 million. It was not more than 300 or 400 yd away from tower blocks where 60 per cent. of the residents were unemployed and living in considerable poverty. That is an example of the difficulty that we face in Barnet.

Overall average incomes in Barnet are quite good--they are above average, in fact--but poverty is high. It is appalling in some instances, as it is in many other areas of the country.

The remarkable feature of my constituency is not its infrastructure but the wealth of the people. The most beneficial feature of representing a constituency such as Finchley and Golders Green is its demanding nature. There are important one-issue groups. There are so many people in my constituency and in others, both black and white, who make their areas rich by their individual contributions, and I hope to represent my constituents as best I can.

There are identifiable groups, sometimes with one issue, to which I am especially warmly disposed, including those in my constituency who come from Cyprus, both from the Greek sector and the Turkish. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will be pressing forward with a resolution of the Cyprus problem so that Cyprus might become one of the friendly nations in the European Union while at the same time impressing Turkey to stand off and to give Cyprus a fair chance as an independent nation.

I am impressed by the briefings that I have had from several colleagues. I thank especially my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), who has been helpful to me in further explaining the case for Cyprus.

There are many people of the Jewish faith in my constituency. Indeed, there is a Jewish community, and I have been interested in it for many years. I know how dangerous it would be on some occasions to say anything more about what is not necessarily a homogeneous community. That being so, one must be extremely careful in making any statements about it. Many members of the community, however, are worried about the middle east. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will try to make Europe more interested in attempting to establish peace in the middle east, and that is only to be welcomed.

In the western part of my constituency, Cricklewood, there are many people from Ireland, especially Northern Ireland. I am aware of their thoughts and concerns. I am in awe of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland because of the work that she is doing to obtain peace.

Also in my constituency are many people who come from the Indian sub-continent, and we are pleased that they are with us.

I have read the amendments carefully, and some of them, including the one that is before us, are of merit. I have no doubt that they will be considered by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his Treasury team. The House often considers amendments that relate to only a few people and deal with causes that the Chancellor of the day has not addressed. Most of the

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amendments that are before us today congratulate in their own way the Finance Bill as a whole. On that basis, I offer my warm congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: It is my pleasure to congratulate both hon. Members who made their maiden speeches in the debate. We were initially slightly puzzled as to why they chose to break their silence in a debate on spirits, but any misgivings were soon put to rest by the quality and sobriety of their speeches.

The hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Sawford) spoke with great feeling about his constituency. He is right to observe that, despite the prosperity and peace of our constituencies, there are pockets of deprivation. The hon. Gentleman is evidently determined to use his first few years at least to tackle that. We wish him well in that endeavour. We appreciated his genuine and sincere tribute to Roger Freeman, whom we on the Opposition Benches greatly miss.

We were delighted, too, by the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Dr. Vis). I suggest that he continues to mislay his glasses when he speaks. His contribution contained a nice balance between substance and spontaneity. We hope to hear a great deal more from both hon. Members during finance debates as well as others.

Conservative Members will be supporting the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) in the sense that we argued vigorously in Committee for a reduction in the duty on spirits. To that extent, it may be that the hon. Lady's amendment lacks ambition. I believe that she wishes only to remove the increase in duty from 1 January 1998 while we argued strongly for an overall reduction. It was one of the few issues that were given a full hearing in Committee, unhampered by the timetable motion.

We were prevented by the Chairman, however--I believe that it was Mr. McWilliam at the time--from sampling the product. He issued a stern injunction that only water or medicines could be consumed during Committee sittings. Even our attempt to have whisky classified for medicinal use was ruled out of order. Our appetite for the drink was partly removed, however, by the information that we received from the Economic Secretary, who told us that north of the border whisky is frequently mixed with Irn Bru--a terrible punishment for whisky, as Irn Bru is nasty enough even on its own.

We had time to examine the issue in the round. We asked--this echoes the hon. Member for Moray--that if we are to have a review of spirit duties, including their effect on consumption and shopping patterns, why announce now that there will be an increase in duty taking effect form the start of next year? The proposal surely pre-empts or prejudges the outcome of the review. Just as the Red Queen in "Alice in Wonderland" called for the verdict first and then the evidence, the Government are apparently announcing what is to happen and then consulting about what ought to happen.

We agree that there are serious issues to do with cross-border shopping and the smuggling of alcoholic drinks--the Conservative Government grappled with those issues when in office--so perhaps it would be wise to look into the problem again. However, it is unwise to signal in advance that rates of duty are to rise. With a strong pound, the temptation to smuggle alcoholic drinks

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in from the continent is already increasing. Indeed, that constitutes another case for continuing our reductions in duties on spirits--to counter the threat of illegal smuggling, not to mention the legitimate cross-border shopping that goes on. The latter may not always matter to spirits manufacturers, as it is the same whisky which tends to be brought back from Calais, but legitimate shopping abroad damages our off-licence trade and other drinks retailers.

We wanted the Government to continue the trend begun by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), who in the previous two Budgets reduced spirits duties by 4 per cent.--adding up, over two years, to a 13 per cent. real cut in spirits duties. Among all spirits, of course, whisky is the most prominent one to be manufactured and sold here.

What is more, we wanted to help the industry. I believe that I heard the hon. Member for Moray say that the export industry is worth £2.2 billion per year--a large sum, and a great tribute to the Scottish companies concerned as we know that they meet discrimination in many overseas markets, where the duty on home-produced spirits is way below that on imported whiskies. When the British Government take that point up with the Governments concerned, they are often told that it is true, but that the United Kingdom itself imposes much higher duty on alcohol in the form of spirits than on other forms of alcohol.It therefore behoves us to move slowly towards putting our own house in order. That, in turn, reinforces the case for a slow, but steady reduction in spirit duties combined with a freeze on other alcohol duties.

We have urged the Government to continue the trend that the Conservative Government began. For the reasons that I have outlined, we have a lot of sympathy with the amendment and we believe that so far the Government have not explained their position.

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