Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Taylor: I am already on record as welcoming an increase that is overdue and insufficient, but at least it is happening. I agree entirely about the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), who read out a letter from a constituent in Wells who said that she did not plan to vote Labour at the next general election, but did not mention how she would vote. Given that it is a marginal

20 Jul 2000 : Column 593

seat between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives which I believe we will gain at the next general election, perhaps there are good tactical reasons for moving from the Labour party to the Liberal Democrats.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: The hon. Gentleman is muddling up two letters. One that I read was from the ex-Labour supporter in Merseyside who did not intend to vote Labour. The one that I read from my constituent in Glastonbury did not say which way she would vote or has voted in the past. It is an impertinence on the part of the hon. Gentleman to probe her political allegiances, rather than address the substance of the issue and the complaint that she was making against the Government.

Mr. Taylor: Given that the right hon. Gentleman has been reading out letters from correspondents about their political allegiances, I am not entirely sure that the impertinence is mine. I am not sure that his correspondents expected their voting preferences to be read out in the Chamber, but that is a matter for him to consider.

On education, the Conservatives say that they would spend less, so presumably the situation will be worse still. Even between 1991 and 1996 when they spent more than the present Government, the number of pupils in primary schools in England in classes of more than 30 children rose by 38 per cent.--a third of all primary pupils in England were taught in classes of more than 30.

Under Labour, although class sizes have been reduced for five to seven-year-olds, they are up for eight to 11-year-olds and at record levels for secondary school classes. Teacher shortages are worsening. There are 47 per cent. more vacancies than in 1997. In the last comprehensive spending review, the claimed £19 billion or 5.1 per cent. increase for education every year was in fact only 2.5 per cent. last year. The Government cannot even deliver the spending increases that they like to announce, so we must have some doubts about the new comprehensive spending review.

The issue for both parties is to explain away the fact that things were bad under the Conservatives and got worse under Labour, and now the Conservatives want to cut another £16 billion. At least Labour acknowledges its mistakes.

With regard to health, the picture is the same. Under the Conservatives, spending was greater than they now say they would spend, but there was a 41 per cent. reduction in beds, a 53 per cent. rise in waiting lists, and 20 per cent. of intensive care beds were lost between 1989 and 1996. Bureaucracy increased: 20,000 more managers 50,000 fewer nurses, and more than 50,000 people a year had their operation cancelled, but the Conservatives want to spend even less.

The Labour Government tried to spend less, with the result that the number of out-patients rose from 248,000 to 496,000. Their manifesto stated that they would save £100 million in red tape; they failed to do that, and the number of managers has increased while the number of beds has fallen by more than 5,000.

This is deceit, and it is hard for the electorate to discern what is really happening in public expenditure. The first deceit is the Government's refusal to acknowledge that

20 Jul 2000 : Column 594

they have cut the proportion of national wealth that is spent on public services. That is the reason for the problems of health, education and crime. The Government have stored up money and they are now able to announce big increases for the general election. However, those increases will not take us beyond the level that they inherited. That is also a problem for the Conservatives, and the reason for their bad performance in every interview on Tuesday.

If there are no big increases in public expenditure, which does not exceed the proportion of national income that was spent under the previous Prime Minister or even Baroness Thatcher, how can the Conservative party provide cuts of £16 billion in schools, hospitals, police forces and on pensioners, who are still struggling to survive?

Labour's policy is an election year bribe. It was always intended that expenditure would fall in the early years to allow an increase later. The cost has been borne by the people. The Government claim that they have turned round the management of the economy, that the economy is now about sustainable and that we should consider the increases. In eight Departments, the biggest increase in spending happened this year, in the run-up to an election. Ten more Departments will receive their biggest increase in 2001-02, election year. Only one Department will receive an increase of equivalent size after the general election. Five Departments get an increase only in general election year. That is not a policy of sustainable increases but a strategy that was designed to win the last election by adopting the Conservative budget to head off criticism, and to win the next election by pretending to spend substantially more when spending remains at the same level as when the Government were elected.

Spending on education and health is welcome, but the Government should not be allowed to get away with the fact that it is at the expense of longer waiting lists, larger class sizes, cuts in the number of policemen and the measly 75p increase in pensions over the past three years.

3.52 pm

Mr. David Lammy (Tottenham): It is with great pleasure that I rise to make my maiden speech. It would be remiss of me not to note, in passing, that I am almost certainly the last Member of Parliament to be elected to the House while Madam Speaker graces the Chair. As someone from a generation that grew up with Parliament being televised, I can safely say that Madam Speaker is truly a celebrity and that she will be missed.

I stand here with great humility as the newly elected representative of the people of Tottenham. Hon. Members know that I stand here only because of the sad and sudden death of Bernie Grant. I would dearly have loved to spend my first years in this place working alongside Bernie. Fate determined that that was not to be. I thank the people of Tottenham for their confidence in me, and I hope that I shall repay it in the years ahead.

Bernie made his maiden speech in July 1987 and demonstrated at once both his local knowledge and his confidence as a politician. He was a natural. He was authentic and brutally honest and, as has been said,

For us in Tottenham, he was exceptional and a first-class constituency Member of Parliament. You will understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when I say that you could not really

20 Jul 2000 : Column 595

describe yourself as a friend of Bernie's until he had had occasion to bark at you. I am delighted that, on the last occasion I saw Bernie, he did just that while lamenting my stance on the vexed issue of Mr. Mike Tyson's entry to this country. Bernie argued passionately against his entry and considered Mr. Tyson an unworthy role model for his young constituents. His concern for young people is well documented and remained a passion throughout his life.

In his maiden speech in 1987, Bernie said:

He was referring to the Broadwater Farm estate and the disturbances that had happened there. He went on to talk about the way in which the local community and the local council had worked together after that to harness energies and regenerate the estate.

Bernie worked closely with his wife, Sharon, who was very much his partner in work as well as in life. I would like to thank Sharon for all her work on behalf of the people of Tottenham. For her and all of us, Bernie's legacy will live on. He is with us today in the memory of all who knew him. I know that he would forgive me for not wearing a dashiki today in his honour. In a very real sense, he is part of the reason I am here. I thank him for that, and I shall never forget him.

Tottenham is a constituency that has been well served by its Members of Parliament. Before Bernie, Norman Atkinson was our Member of Parliament for 20 years and he, too, concerned himself with the needs of the community and local government. He was also treasurer of Labour's national executive committee for five years. Before Norman Atkinson, Mr. Brown was elected as Tottenham's Labour Member of Parliament in 1959, but in 1962 he crossed the Floor and fought the 1964 election as the incumbent Tory Member of Parliament for Tottenham. It was said at the time that, by crossing the Floor, he raised the average IQ of both the party he left and the party he joined. You will agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I follow in varied and interesting footsteps. However, I can assure you that I will not follow Mr. Brown's example.

I am glad to represent Tottenham, and not only because it is my home and the birthplace of the best football club in London. I am proud because in Tottenham, we have a grassroots intellectual tradition which has been nurtured on the margins of society. Although the margins of society have provided some of the worst statistics on social exclusion, they can also shed the most radical and exciting perspective on social thought. Although Tottenham is a constituency of much poverty, it has never been impoverished in its people. Through the centuries, many cultures of the world have traversed Tottenham High road--white English people, Russians, Huguenots, Spaniards, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Africans, Irish, Hasidic Jews, Asians, Caribbean islanders and, more recently, Kosovans and other people from eastern Europe.

There is no need to go to New York or California to experience dynamic diversity and vibrancy. One need not look only to the Commonwealth for a model of communities coming together. Under our own eyes, people from the far reaches of the world are living happily together, from different backgrounds, races and religions.

20 Jul 2000 : Column 596

All contribute to the richness of Tottenham. All understand the importance of unity and working and living together. All celebrate and glory in the multi-faith, multicultural family that constitutes Tottenham. These people are a valuable resource. If that resource were an untapped oilfield or a new diamond mine, business would be queueing round the block to buy the rights. People are the best and most precious resource that we have. I am acutely aware that I am here today because, at every stage of my development, people have invested in me.

I have had the support of a dedicated mother and family, Haringey council, Haringey teachers, my church, my secondary school, the Labour party, mentors in the legal profession and lecturers at the university of London and Harvard law school. I have even had the support of my bank. No one said, "This isn't for you. Who do you think you are? Black men from Tottenham don't go to Harvard law school." People believed in me. They invested in me. Constituents such as mine want and deserve that same investment--investment in people and the funds and resources not just to take up employment, but to become self-employed by opening small businesses, enterprises, cafes and newsagents. They want to play football at White Hart Lane, play music in a band or create art. We must invest in people's souls as well as their skills.

It is an honour to make my maiden speech on the most crucial subject of public expenditure, because Government expenditure over the years has neglected to take into account some of the grave problems of the inner city, perhaps in the hope that poverty might disappear by itself. For too long, the state has said to too many people in Tottenham, "You've got nothing to offer. You must be stupid because of your background, because you don't speak English. What are you doing living here?"

The task ahead of us is to continue to search, in partnership with the community and the Government, for new forms of response to an ever-complex and changing world. For the general welfare, sound investment for business and for people is not best served by placing even the least political restraints on economic activity. Responsible government must work to secure social and economic justice. Perhaps that is a tightrope that we knew we would find ourselves walking, but it is one that the Government have trod remarkably well. We have a Government who recognise that public expenditure can liberate and nurture as well as simply provide public services.

Just over a month ago, the Government announced a £50 million package of investment through the new deal for communities programme for the Seven Sisters area of my constituency. That is more than just a band-aid; it is real money--£50 million of investment in the 10,000 people in the Seven Sisters area of Tottenham, which is plagued by poor housing, high crime and weak schools. On Tuesday, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the Government's massive nationwide investment in public services. His announcement means at least £50,000 for every secondary school in Tottenham every year for the next three years--all paid to the head teacher and all money to be invested in books, new information technology equipment and helping children to grow and develop.

There are 29 centres of early years excellence across Britain. Three are in Tottenham, which is the highest concentration in the country. We can provide an early

20 Jul 2000 : Column 597

years programme for almost all three and four-year-olds whose parents request a place. No four-year-olds in Tottenham will be of the opinion that they are stupid because of their race or because they do not speak English. They will look forward to studying in higher education establishments such as the university of Middlesex, which this week announced that it is to open a new site for 10,000 students in the heart of the regeneration zone in the centre of Tottenham.

The college of North East London has just undergone more than £19 million of development. That money will refurbish the buildings and install cutting-edge technology so that people in my community can learn directly. Tottenham is also the home of the Digital Arts centre, which offers state-of-the-art technology and facilities to a community that wants to engage in music and film. We have many artists in Tottenham, although not ones whose exhibits can be found in Tate Modern or the national gallery--at least not yet. There are plans afoot to bring more art and technology to Tottenham, because our young people and entrepreneurs are crying out for them.

The new deal has created opportunities for 139,000 young people across Britain to gain employment. The scheme has been effective in helping young people and the long-term unemployed to get real jobs, but Tottenham needs more. Our unemployment rate of 11.6 per cent. is the third highest in England and the new deal has not met the needs of all black youth in Haringey. It is vital that that flaw be swiftly addressed. I welcome the Government's assurances that that aspect of the new deal will be quickly improved.

I have the great privilege to represent the most multicultural constituency represented in the House. I am not just a black politician for black people; I am a politician for all people. Multi-ethnic means just that--all ethnic groups, black and white. When I see any section of my community disadvantaged or missing out on life's chances and opportunities, I will strive to support and speak out for it. That is what my constituents would expect me to do.

As a young representative, I am very aware of the lack of interest in the workings of Parliament among my friends and contemporaries. Recent elections have shown a certain lack of engagement between voters and politicians. Most worrying is the fact that younger people--those under 30--are particularly uninterested. They still engage in single-issue politics, but less so in national party politics. This year, I have fought the Greater London Assembly election and the Tottenham by-election. In both, the candidates promised to find solutions to real problems. That is what the voters demand and politicians strive to deliver. Why, then, does a persistent apathy creep in?

That apathy dictates that the politician's role is to fail and the elector's role is to be disillusioned. At the end of the cycle, the politicians are frustrated, the media cynical and the electorate turned off. For me, the real work begins now. Along with all Members of the House, I shall try to find ways to make new connections and to join an on-going dialogue with the electorate. Many people have invested in me. I look forward--with the Government and my right hon. and hon. Friends--to investing in the people of Tottenham. I thank the House for welcoming its youngest Member.

20 Jul 2000 : Column 598

Next Section

IndexHome Page