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Fiona Mactaggart (Slough): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Redwood indicated assent.

Fiona Mactaggart: Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that businesses in the Thames valley might think from what he is saying that he is putting a higher priority on a petty attempt to put down the Secretary of State than on their future profitability? When I talk to them, I certainly expect that to be their interpretation of his remarks.

Mr. Redwood: I do not think that the hon. Lady understands the matter, either. I have consulted on the issue with businesses in and just outside my constituency, and have promised to represent their views. On both encryption and signature, they are very worried that even a permissive, voluntary system could damage their commercial interests. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State is not interested in the issue. He is making that quite clear by his juvenile sedentary interventions.

I assure the Secretary of State that the Opposition are very concerned that we must have the best possible climate in all senses--tax, regulation and general economic performance--for the success of the electronic commerce industry.

I assure the Secretary of State also that I am well aware that we are one of the world leaders in the industry. There are some things that we can learn from the United States, and some things that it can learn from us. There is work to be done on that. However, I am not yet satisfied that the measures that he will propose will help the cause of electronic commerce in Britain. He must allow me to reserve my scepticism until he can make a better case and tell us what he intends to do on the issues, with specific answers to specific questions.

Mr. Chidgey: Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the point, will he tell us whether, in the previous

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Government, on third-party confidentiality of encryption, he was ever a supporter of the concept that GCHQ should be the third party?

Mr. Redwood: I never expressed a view on that matter, which is very ancient history. It would be much better if the House concentrated on debating the present and the future rather than what might or might not have been said or done some years ago under the previous Government.

The Queen's Speech fails to deal with the pressing problems of British industry and commerce. It proposes taking power away from people and giving it to politicians. It puts Labour politicians first and people last. The public are not clamouring for reform of the House of Lords but demanding more jobs, and better schools and hospitals.

The Queen's Speech does absolutely nothing to stop the collapse in manufacturing industry that we are witnessing daily. There is nothing in it to prevent a single factory closure. Worst of all, under this Secretary of State, it threatens to undo much of the good that was done to United Kingdom industrial relations in the 1980s and 1990s.

We fear that the Queen's Speech will take us back to the bad old days, back to the bad old ways. I pay tribute to both Conservative Prime Ministers in the previous Government, one of whom is in the Chamber, for their success in changing the industrial relations climate and industrial relations law. [Interruption.] Yes, I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) on his recent honour, which is a fitting tribute to, among other things, the contribution that the Conservative Government made to industrial peace and harmony--something which Labour could never achieve in its days in office in the 1970s.

Labour's Euro-election system is designed to take the power to choose a candidate from people and to give it to politicians. Labour's trade union changes are designed to take the power of choice from individual workers and to give it to trade union leaders. Labour's grammar school proposals are designed to take the power of choice from parents and pupils attending those schools--a power from which, in various capacities, many of us have benefited over the years. Labour's transport policy allows Ministers to circulate in ministerial cars in style, leaving the rest of us to hire taxis and to gridlock.

The Opposition offers a better vision of the future than the miserable vision on offer in the Queen's Speech. Our vision goes with the grain of human nature. It is one that trusts people to make more of their own choices, and strengthens rather than undermines people's democratic rights.

People are being let down by the Government's merciless assault on manufacturing. High interest rates, high sterling, high taxes and greater regulation are all making their impact felt. Day after day, we see job loss after job loss. Day after day, we see factory closure after factory closure--usually in the constituencies of Labour members.

Mr. Geraint Davies: The right hon. Gentleman mentioned high exchange rates. How would he control them? Does he agree with Oskar Lafontaine, the German

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Finance Minister, that there should be currency target zones? If not, how would he control exchange rates? Would he set the Monetary Policy Committee two targets, one for prices and one for exchange rates? If so, how would he overcome the conflicts inherent in those targets?

Mr. Redwood: When there was a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer prepared to take responsibility for these matters, he took the exchange rate into account when forming interest rate judgments--and did a rather better job for manufacturing in the mid-1990s before we lost office than the Labour Government are able to do through their independent central bank. I know which of those business would rather have at the moment. My advice to the Monetary Policy Committee and the Chancellor is to take into account the impact that the current mix of high taxes, high exchange rate and high interest rates is having on manufacturing, because it is clearly doing an enormous amount of damage.

During the past seven days, 1,000 jobs have gone at BTR Siebe and 268 at William Baird, and 1,600 are going at British Steel. What do the Government say in the Queen's Speech is the answer--that we should abolish hereditary peers in the House of Lords just in case they might be a voice for manufacturing. [Interruption.] Labour Members obviously do not like any disagreement with Government policy and the pager message. That is why they want to get rid of independent voices in the House of Lords. But they still cannot tell us what they will replace them with, because they do not want any independent voices in the House of Lords. When the other place has finished standing up for our right to choose a candidate in an election, I hope that it will stand up for the right of manufacturers to have a decent deal from this Government.

Mr. Christopher Leslie (Shipley): In the interests of industry at large, does the right hon. Gentleman believe that we should retain hereditary peers in the House of Lords?

Mr. Redwood: The Opposition have made it clear that the Government should not get rid of one part of the House of Lords until they have something better to put in its place. We would be happy to listen to what the Government have to say about a better solution. If they came up with one, I dare say we would welcome it. In the meantime, we are holding our own inquiry into the matter, which will run in parallel with the royal commission. It is nonsense to get rid of a chunk of the House of Lords before the royal commission has reported on how that can best be organised.

Since we last debated the crisis in manufacturing a few weeks ago, 600 jobs have gone at Ionica, 225 at Desmond and Sons, 100 at Sally Ferries, 300 at British Gas, 90 at ICI, 80 at Coopers Tools and 70 at Umbro--I could go on with a much longer list. A job goes every 10 minutes, but still the Secretary of State will do nothing. He will not even debate the issue in the House when we give him the opportunity to do so.

Yvette Cooper: If the right hon. Gentleman cares so much about job losses and unemployment, why does he want to abolish the new deal?

Mr. Redwood: Because it is not working. The Conservative Government got far more young people into

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work and back to work under a sensible economic policy and without a new deal, at much less cost to the public purse, than the Government are doing at some cost to the public purse. The hon. Lady claims to know about Treasury affairs. Perhaps, unlike the Secretary of State, she has read the minutes of the MPC meetings over recent months. If she has, she will have noted that it was fears about the minimum wage and the increase in public spending that led to interest rates staying higher for longer than manufacturing could afford. She should be urging lower public spending, which is what our view on the new deal would achieve.

Yvette Cooper: While the right hon. Gentleman is on the subject of interest rates, is he aware that, if they rose to the 15 per cent. level that they were under his Government, that would cost British business an extra £28 billion? Is that the sort of interest rate setting policy to which he wants us to return?

Mr. Redwood: The Opposition do not want interest rates at that level. If the hon. Lady had been listening, she would know that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and others have been urging lower rates, not higher. She may wish to reflect on the fact that, when interest rates were that high, Britain was in the exchange rate mechanism--a policy which those on her Front Bench supported to the rafters. It was the only economic policy we followed that the Labour party supported, and it supported it fully. It has never apologised, to this day, for the mistake it made in that particular case. [Laughter.] I do not know why Labour Members are laughing. They well know that not all Conservatives wanted the problems that occurred in the early 1990s, and they well know that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has made a suitable apology, as I have often reminded the House.

What do the Government do about all the job losses? They make the problem worse by making it more expensive to make goods in Britain--£2,300 million extra each year for the working time regulations; £2,900 million a year extra for the minimum wage; and now trade union laws that will make it more difficult and costly to make goods in Britain.

Before Labour Members think that they have a clever point to make about my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon, let me put a point to the Secretary of State. My right hon. Friend cared deeply about jobs in Britain, and one of things he did in Europe was to make sure that we had the right not to go into damaging social chapter measures, which are now coming in, thick and fast, under the Labour Government. I applaud what my right hon. Friend did, because he did it in the best interests of Britain. It worked: a lot of investors came here in the mid-1990s, thanking him for keeping us out of those damaging regulations. Now, we are being dragged in.

Why did the Secretary of State not keep us out of the social chapter, and instead judge each measure on its merits? He told us today that conditions vary around the European Union and that some countries need different labour measures from others. I agree. Why did he not keep the power, which my right hon. Friend protected, to choose separate labour measures for this country?

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