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Yvette Cooper: Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the Government should have sustained the £28 billion deficit with which his Government left us, or should we have continued to pursue the fiscal policies of his Government, which broke the golden rule every year and doubled the national debt?

Mr. Major: The hon. Lady is relatively new to the House, but I must say to her, "Come off it." Does she seriously think that the £20 billion that was boasted in the Queen's Speech to have come off the deficit suddenly and miraculously appeared on 2 May 1997? Was that the result of the delayed impact of corporation tax coming in as a result of policies put in place by the previous Government, and of the profits yielded by those policies? Of course it was the latter. There are lags in yield, and if the hon. Lady does not understand that, I hope that others do. It was ludicrous to claim credit in the Gracious Speech for £20 billion off the fiscal deficit in the first year.

Yvette Cooper rose--

Mr. Campbell-Savours rose--

Mr. Major: The hon. Gentleman is an old hand who has been in Workington since before the flood. He knows that the hon. Lady is talking nonsense, and I know that he will talk nonsense, too, so I shall let him do so later and will get on with my speech now.

Mr. Campbell-Savours rose--

Mr. Major: Oh, all right then.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: It seems that the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) disagrees with the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). On 10 November, he said:

The right hon. Member for Wokingham is always dissociating himself from the policies of his former Prime Minister. How does the right hon. Member for Huntingdon feel about being disowned time and time again?

Mr. Major: The hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) was actually talking about the deficit over the previous year, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) does, indeed, often remind me of my mistakes.

The Chancellor cannot run the economy on the slogan that he has used during the past few months. He says there will be an end to short-termism. Of course we want that, but it is odd that the Chancellor who wants to end short-termism should, in his very first Budget, have made an attack on investment with taxation. That is a very odd way to end short-termism. Perhaps it will surprise the Chancellor to hear that short-termism ended in the 1980s with the supply side changes that he opposed. It ended in

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the 1990s with our painful efforts--which he by and large opposed--to get inflation down. Short-termism ended then when politically unpopular decisions were taken to put the economy on an even keel. Whenever he is cornered, the Chancellor recites a mantra. He says, "We will end boom and bust." It is at least half true--he is ending the boom. We must hope that he does not lead us into bust too soon.

I want to touch on one glaring omission from the Queen's Speech. I do not mean the lack of an integrated transport policy, which has so embarrassed the Deputy Prime Minister, although I hope that the right hon. Gentleman enjoyed his lunch today when he had the privilege of presenting the parliamentarian of the year award to the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague). It is not often that a corpse meets his assassin of the day before in order to present him with an award for the assassination. I hope that it was an enjoyable occasion, and I am very sorry that I missed it. I can see that the Secretary of State is very sorry that he missed it as well.

Mr. Mandelson indicated assent.

Mr. Major: It must have been a remarkable occasion.

I do not want to talk about that omission from the Queen's Speech, or even about the freedom of information Bill, which has returned to the political womb, to re-emerge at some later stage. Instead, I refer to something that worries the Prime Minister as well as myself. The Prime Minister may be surprised to learn that we share a similar view, and that I am prepared to join him, but I judge him on what he has said recently rather than on his policies. Soon, we shall have a Scottish Assembly in Edinburgh, with tax-raising powers. The House knows that I think that that is a mistake, but that argument is past. We must deal with the reality that there will be an election next summer, followed by an Assembly.

The House will have, at some stage, to deal with problems consequential on the setting up of that Assembly. The Queen's Speech contains a range of constitutional measures that will cause future problems, although, in the interests of brevity, I shall not list those problems. However, there was nothing to deal with one problem which, if it is honest with itself, the House knows to have been created by the establishment of the Scottish Assembly.

The Scottish Parliament will put the Union at risk unless we are careful and skilful. When I warned of that some time ago, up to and during the election, I was much scoffed at by Labour Members and some members of Opposition parties, but the Prime Minister now accepts the danger, or there would be no reason for him to make speeches about our having a battle for Britain, oblivious though he may be to the fact that the only reason that we are having to fight that battle is the policy that he put in place and the nature of the Scottish Assembly that he has established.

The Government were warned, and they scoffed and jeered at the warnings. The truth is now there to haunt them, but that is history. I shall not worry too much about the haunting of the Prime Minister and those on the Treasury Bench. What is more important is this: where is the action to deal with the problem and where are the

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policies to encourage the newly established Scottish Assembly not to bid for independence and to realise that it would do better to stay joined at the hip as part of the United Kingdom in the Union that has served all of the United Kingdom so well for nearly 300 years?

Where are the policies to cope with what every hon. Member knows in his or her heart is the manifest absurdity of Scottish Members with no control over health, education and transport in their constituencies voting down here on health, transport and education in Hartlepool, Huntingdon, Peckham and elsewhere? We know that that is a problem and that it will cause conflict. Since we realise that, why on earth, given the majority that the Government have, do they not consider that constitutional problem before it becomes a running sore between this House and the Edinburgh Assembly?

The Secretary of State for Scotland has been saying for years that Scotland should have a Parliament. Now, he is saying in lectures that England should not have one. I am a Unionist and I agree with the Secretary of State that I do not want a separate English Parliament, although I observe the manifest absurdity of that right hon. Gentleman saying so. The difference between him and me is that I told the Scots of that problem before and during the general election, while he and his colleagues told them what was convenient for the Labour party during the election, with no concern for or understanding of the problem that would be created after it.

This is the Government's mess and it will not go away. They have created it and they need to correct the imbalance that they have created--through, not an English Parliament, but an English dimension to a United Kingdom Parliament--before it is too late and it causes too much bitterness. That is urgent. They should begin to discuss with my right hon. Friends how we might deal with that problem. I do not want my party to stand to one side and scoff at and mock the troubles that the Government are facing, because there are bigger issues at stake the constitutional position of the United Kingdom.

If Scotland were to break away--I do not expect that to be imminent, but it might do so in five or 10 years--will the Secretary of State say whether we would be stronger or weaker in Europe to stand up for our position there? He knows that we would be weaker. Would we be more or less likely to retain our seat on the Security Council? He knows that we would be less likely to do so. Would we be likely to retain our position in the Group of Seven, and would we have enhanced or lesser power if our country were seen to be breaking up? He knows that it would be lesser power.

At this stage in this Parliament, this year, with the Government's majority and our support, they could have dealt with that constitutional issue, that problem, which exists now. Instead, they have introduced a range of constitutional tinkering, which will create fresh problems, which will emerge if they get their way on other constitutional issues in Parliament during the rest of this Session. I bitterly regret the fact that the Government have chosen not to examine and deal with that issue before a sore becomes an ailment that is not readily curable.

Today, our main subjects are trade and industry and education and employment. We are offered a consultation document on teaching--another smack of firm

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consultation--which may well be worth while, but sounds like a fig leaf. I hope that the Secretary of State for Education and Employment will have more to say about that later. Given the way in which the question has been framed and the ballot arranged, we can look forward to what looks to be a vindictive, slow destruction of grammar schools without the Government having the courage to take direct abolition through the House. Yet again, part of the famous £40 billion will be reannounced--this time to repair schools, something that will be welcome if it turns out to be there and actually happens. Frankly, we have also had absurd policies for industry which will add to--

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