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Mrs. Ellman: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir David Madel: I shall, but other hon. Members wish to speak. I hope that the hon. Lady will be brief.

Mrs. Ellman rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Lady has to make a brief intervention.

Mrs. Ellman: The point that I am seeking to make is that, in 1993, the Government of the day refused to act, but action was taken by a Labour-controlled local authority, which resulted in the saving of truck manufacture in Lancashire and of thousands of manufacturing jobs in Lancashire and beyond.

Sir David Madel: The point that I am trying to make is that, in 1986, when there was a proposal for a General Motors-Leyland deal, the Labour Opposition kicked up a terrible row. One of the consequences was that, eventually, Dunstable lost all its truck production. I know that we have just had Wimbledon. We could say "30 all" on that. If the hon. Lady will excuse me, I must move on.

As I have been talking about Vauxhall, I wish to make one point about the speech of the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey), the Liberal Democrat spokesman. His remarks were a bit downbeat and not very encouraging about Vauxhall. Do not worry: the new Astra productivity, production and quality in Ellesmere Port are just as good as on the continent. If they were not, 1,000 extra jobs would not be going there, so I hope that the Liberal Democrats will not mislead the country on economic conditions locally. They certainly misled people in Bedfordshire in 1986.

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As I said, I am grateful for the help that the President of the Board of Trade gave us on the future of the Vauxhall plant at Luton. However, I hope that she has already done a further thing to help us: I hope that she has made strong representations to the Deputy Prime Minister on the White Paper on roads, which will soon be with us. We in Dunstable and Luton urgently need certain roads for our improved infrastructure. That is vital for industry, for employment and for future employment.

I hope that, having helped over Vauxhall at Luton, the President of the Board of Trade will be able further to help us with getting those new roads built, which are vital for our local industry. We cannot have industrial and employment policy in Bedfordshire decided by the antics of Friends of the Earth. As a constituency Member of Parliament, I am here to represent my constituents and, in view of the history of my constituency and what we have been through, that means above all fighting endlessly to get a more secure employment base.

In view of what has been said, I assume that DTI Ministers are getting increasingly anxious about what is happening to the manufacturing sector and about the policies pursued by the Monetary Policy Committee. Last Friday, there were three quotations in The Times from three people who come from entirely different wings, if you like, of the political spectrum, on the present policies of the committee. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in criticising the committee:


The Engineering Employers Federation said:


    "We would urge the MPC as soon as possible to signal that interest rates have peaked and that the next move will be downwards."

Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, which has many members in Bedfordshire, said:


    "The recession will continue until the Bank ends its war of attrition against manufacturing industry."

I agreed with quite a bit of what the hon. Member for Rotherham said about how the Monetary Policy Committee could become more involved in industry. I think that industry feels that it is simply not getting its message across to the committee. In fact, the committee might invite the President of the Board of Trade and some of her Ministers to sit in on some its meetings. It is the committee's duty to become far more heavily involved in the worries and needs of industry, and to pay far more attention to industry's view, rather than ale-house gossip in the City.

People in industry are being pushed to their absolute limits on the factory floor to secure export orders and, once they are secured, to ensure that they are delivered on time. I look to the MPC to start to work with the grain industry, rather than giving the impression of working against industry.

On industrial relations, I should like the Government to take a leaf out of our book and leave many things as they are. The change of Government was a year ago. There was a change of Government in 1951, after six years of a Labour Government. In moving the Loyal Address, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, said:


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    I should like to turn that around: what the country needs is several years of quiet administration, to allow Conservative trade union legislation to reach its full fruition, rather than pulling it about and starting to change it around. This country does have greater industrial stability, and I hope that the Government will make a gesture in that way.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) said, however, the motion mentions


    "industrial unrest in several sectors of the economy".

There is one sector in which matters have not improved but become worse in the past 12 months. From April 1997 to April 1998, just over 30 per cent. of all days lost were accounted for by stoppages in the transport, storage and communications sector, predominant recent stoppages on London Underground and Railtrack. The biggest single cause of action was pay--wage rates and earnings levels--followed by disputes over manning and works allocation.

There must be a way of achieving industrial peace in the railway industry. I cannot think of any other industry in which work conditions have improved more since the war. In 1945, the industry had steam trains, coal had to be shovelled and there were many difficulties. An enormous effort has been made to improve industrial conditions in the railways. The Government, in their heavy emphasis on greater use of public transport, are creating an atmosphere in which people entering the railway industry should be able to look forward to steady and secure employment. Somehow or other, we have to transform the atmosphere in the railway industry.

Since the war, there have been some remarkable breakthroughs in industrial relations--one of the best of which was the productivity agreements, in the 1960s, at the Fawley oil refinery, near Southampton. A whole range of improvements in that industry followed the agreements.

Mrs. Dunwoody: If the railway industry was able to offer its members the pay rates that are common in the oil industry, many railway men and women would be highly delighted with their jobs.

Sir David Madel: The hon. Lady and I have discussed the railway industry in the Select Committee on Transport, on which I was pleased to serve when she was Chairman. If I may develop the argument a little more, I think that she will see what I am getting at.

I am convinced that the railway industry and management can draw on good practice in other United Kingdom industries, to move towards better industrial relations. I am convinced that in that industry we can move, by negotiation, to single-union recognition, no-strike clauses and three-year wage agreements. Although it will not be done overnight and it cannot be forced through, there is sufficient experience in other parts of UK industry to show that it can be done, although it will take time.

I tell the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) that thousands of my constituents now depend--and even more of them will come to depend--on peace in the railway and tube industries to get to work. Jobs in the industry should become ever more secure. It is the challenge of management and unions to make industrial peace happen, and to move to the type of industrial peace that exists in many other sectors of UK industry.

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One of my worries about the Government is that we have a restless Prime Minister and a restless Cabinet, always looking for things to do. That is not the best way to govern the United Kingdom. The best way to govern this country is--

Mr. MacShane: To do nothing.

Sir David Madel: No; it is to deal with matters as they arise. In this debate, we are talking about a problem that has arisen--the plight of manufacturing industry. I do not think that there are enough signs that the Government are responding positively to our worries about that industry.

I remind Labour Members that every Labour Government we have ever had left office with unemployment higher than when they took office. The way that the Government are going about matters, the same will happen again--I fear that history will repeat itself. If that happens, where will the welfare-to-work programme stand?

5.33 pm

Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): We have had an interesting debate, in which some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Sir D. Madel), seemed to argue--it is the first time that I have heard such an argument in the House--that the Government should not try to be proactive, but sit back and wait for events, to which they should react. I strongly suspect that the Government would soon be criticised by Conservative Members if they were to take that advice.

We heard an interesting speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), who made a powerful case on several matters--not least on brown-bread bacon sandwiches. I hasten to add that he made that case without having to resort to lobbyists or any outside agency.

The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) made an interesting speech, on which I should like to focus for a few moments. His thesis was that the Chancellor should have raised consumer taxes to take the heat out of the economy. There is no question but that some money has to be taken out of the economy and that increasing interest rates is currently the main mechanism of doing so. One aspect of the monetarist thesis that now seems to be generally accepted is that a major factor in increasing inflation is money entering the economy more rapidly than goods to "absorb" that extra money. Consequently, the extra money has to be "sopped up" by inflation and increased prices. The hon. Gentleman therefore seemed to be agreeing with the thesis that removing money from the economy is a good way of controlling inflationary pressures.

The mistake made by the hon. Member for Eastleigh was to suggest that that extra money should be returned to the economy in immediately increased public sector spending. Such spending would not produce the downward effect on inflation that he seemed to advocate. Although he recommended that we spend the extra money on valuable projects that I agree require further investment, the economic circle could be squared only if he were to propose that we not only increase consumer taxes and spend that tax revenue on good works,

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but increase interest rates--exactly as has happened--or cut public sector expenditure in other spheres. If such action was not taken, increased public sector spending would not achieve the effect on inflation that the hon. Gentleman desires. That is the fallacy in his argument.


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