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6.20 pm

Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): This debate has included some remarkable contributions. The first on which I want to comment is that of my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), which was an inspiring maiden speech.

Some other remarkable speeches have come from the Opposition Benches. We have heard Conservative Member after Conservative Member blaming the Government for decisions that were taken when their party was in office and are now feeding through into the system, or even decisions that were taken by Conservative county councils when they were asked to prioritise their spending.

One Conservative Member talked about waiting lists for heart surgery. It takes 12 to 15 years to train a heart surgeon. If there are no heart surgeons now, it is not this Government's fault. The new deal is good, but it is not good enough to get people from the dole to heart surgery in two years. Conservative Members should be more honest than to blame the Government for seeds that they sowed while they were in power.

Mr. Collins: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Ladyman: I am sorry, but I really do not have time.

We also heard a remarkable contribution from the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Mr. Taylor). When I pointed it out to him that the Liberal Democrat manifesto did not promise huge amounts of extra money for health--it promised £350 million, funded through a change in national insurance contributions--he said that that was on top of growth. He seems to have forgotten that he and I shared a radio studio shortly after my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's first Budget, when he accused my right hon. Friend of allowing the country to plummet into recession and doing nothing about it. He intended there to be no growth. If the Liberal Democrats had been running the country, we would have had £350 million from national insurance contributions and nothing else.

Mr. Matthew Taylor: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Ladyman: No, I really cannot, because of the shortage of time. It had been my intention, if I had had 15 minutes, to go through all the Opposition arguments and destroy every single one, but unfortunately I have time for only a quick canter through the comprehensive spending review from the point of view of South Thanet.

Several hon. Members have mentioned the £16 billion cuts that the Conservatives are proposing in a document that they have produced, but it has not been mentioned that the document not only talks about the need for that saving but details how much that would mean per constituency, and even helpfully provides the figures per region. It identifies that £2.3 billion of savings have to be made in the south-east.

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The hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon) talked about road improvements in Kent. What chance does he have of getting improved roads in Kent if a further £2.3 billion of cuts has to be made?

The Thanet district of my constituency has one of the highest levels of unemployment in England. Somebody told me that the latest figures show that it is back to having the second highest unemployment rate in England, despite a huge cut in unemployment in the past three years and the fact that things are moving in the right direction.

We have assisted area status, so we can give grants to new investors, but one of the arguments that I have urged on Ministers is that, before we give grants for businesses to move into areas of high unemployment, we should ask what stops them moving in of their own volition, without grants. In the case of the Thanet district, the missing ingredients are improvements on two small pieces of road, and a new railway line.

If we had those improvements to road and rail services, we would be able to build a sustainable economy within a short space of time. The CSR and the announcement on transport spending today give us, for the first time, real hope that we might be able to get the roads and the improved railway line. I will be banging on the Minister's door to make sure he realises how important it is that some of that money comes our way when the announcements are made in December. It is already the number one priority in Kent and I hope very much that we will have good news in December.

The Chancellor promised that he would make sure that objective 2 funding was matched. We have objective 2 funding in Thanet, and that promise of match funding will release a huge amount of extra money to spend on utilities and infrastructure which will help bring down unemployment.

We have a lot of science-based industries in my constituency. The £1 billion pound investment programme in science is to be welcomed. I would like to appeal to all secondary schools in my constituency and others that when they get their £50,000, £60,000 or £70,000 they spend a large part of it on new science facilities and improving laboratories genuinely to inspire our young people to get into science.

One of the things that I have noticed since coming to the House is how many lawyers there are. I have nothing against lawyers, but with great respect to them the law does not put bread and butter on the nation's table. That is done by science and technology and increasingly it will be done by the knowledge-based industries and new technology.

Mr. Tyrie: Does the hon. Gentleman think that there are too many lawyers at No. 10?

Dr. Ladyman: No. I think we have exactly the right number of lawyers in No. 10 and exactly the right lawyers as well.

I wish to draw the attention of the House to the announcement of the £80 million that is being put towards the cost of cleaning up Chernobyl. That is welcome and essential money. It means that in terms of cleaning up nuclear waste and contamination in the former Soviet Union, we are among the leaders in the world. I remind the House and the Government that the estimate for cleaning up the former Soviet Union and bringing nuclear

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facilities there up to western standards is £1 trillion. By my calculations, the £80 million we have contributed still leaves us £999,920 million short of the target.

I am not suggesting that the United Kingdom should be providing all that money, although UK companies would win a lot of the business. However, we should go to the United Nations and work hard to have that money matched by other nations so that we start to get the sort of contribution to make a real impact on the clean-up programme. If we do not do that, Chernobyl might not be the last such accident.

I can say with my hand on my heart that the CSR gives my constituency real hope for the future. We hope that within a reasonable space of time we can start to aspire to bring down unemployment to the UK average, and perhaps one day we might even be on our way to the level of Kent generally.

6.29 pm

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: By leave of the House, I should like to wind up the debate.

It has been a good debate on all sides. I think that it has made genuine progress in scrutinising the Chancellor's announcement on Tuesday and in getting behind some of the figures and the assumptions on which they are based.

The debate was notable, too, for the outstanding maiden speech by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), who spoke movingly of his predecessor, Bernie Grant, and described the varied nature of his new constituency and its people. He made it clear that he did not regard himself as a member of any black caucus or sectoral group, but wished to represent all the people of Tottenham. His only controversial note perhaps was when he claimed to represent the best football team in London. I cannot arbitrate on that, but I look forward to debating other matters with him in due course. This afternoon, he earned the good wishes of the House.

Other Labour Members spoke about the spending totals and their hope that they would translate into better services for their constituents. They were ignoring the risks inherent in the process. They certainly ignored the taxes that are paying for it. They entirely underestimate the resentment caused among many people, including many low-income groups, by the relentless increase in the burden of taxation.

We believe that Labour Members are ignoring the importance of effectiveness in public spending, which is odd because the Labour manifesto emphasised the point that it is not how much we spend but how we spend; that is just as important.

Mr. Casale: In his earlier speech, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Government would be judged on their promises. Of course we have a proud record and will be pleased to stand on that, by contrast with the myriad broken promises under the previous Government, which led to their being voted out of office; but does his party intend to keep the promise of £16 billion of spending cuts?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Of course there is no £16 billion-worth of expenditure cuts. The point has been well made by my hon. Friends, as well as by me in my earlier speech, which I think the hon. Gentleman heard.

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What we were probing--my hon. Friends did so most effectively--was the question of delivery. We are entitled to do that because it is the Government themselves who emphasise the importance of measuring outputs, rather than cash spent. It is they who set up two years ago the system of public service agreements, so we are entitled to ask whether those agreements have worked. We gave many examples of where the targets have been not only missed, but in some cases quietly expunged or forgotten.

I gave the specific example of the Home Office objective. I hope that the Minister refers to it in his winding-up speech. A specific quantifiable objective in the Home Office about the time taken to assess and to complete asylum seeker applications does not appear in the departmental report, which vacuously referred instead to the need for everyone concerned with the subject to work more closely together.

After the Chief Secretary to the Treasury gave evidence to the Select Committee on the Treasury and the report was published, he was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon) how many targets had been met. He said that he did not know; he asked one of his officials to give the answer. The official agreed that they had not all been met, but thought that the targets that had not been met were not very important--so now we know that the target to get crime down is no longer very important. Asylum seekers are not very important either. When he was further pressed on the penalties attaching to this failure he said that in extreme cases civil servants could be sacked. We suggest that in extreme cases it is Ministers who should be sacked. They publish these targets and they should stand by them.

In the few minutes left to me I want to refer to some of the outstanding speeches from this side of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks described graphically the problems of the lack of delivery in Kent and made the good point that we have a new form of economic distortion--the Government tax, and overtax, for a number of years and then open the purse strings and go on a spending spree. We have discovered a new form of stop-go which is highly damaging to public finances and the whole process of planning and delivery.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) described problems with education and crime in London. He rightly criticised the Chancellor's curious remark about defence in his statement on Tuesday, when he asserted that in recent years

It is not new at all. Has the Chancellor forgotten the war we fought to regain the Falklands, the Gulf war, and the many peacekeeping ventures overseas? This is another example of the Government trying entirely to disown the past, as though with new Labour have come new defence forces, new tasks, new peacekeeping. What rubbish. All that has been going on for many years with a great degree of professionalism, backed up by Conservative Governments.

In London we have had the not-so-surprising news that the mayor is not happy with the settlement. As the Evening Standard puts it,

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