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Mr. Bill Michie: No one is saying that people should not ride a horse and break their neck. As the hon. Gentleman said, that is entirely up to the individual. Labour Members object to the cruel way in which an innocent animal is savaged, with the blooding of children and all the rest of it. That sort of thing is wrong. If people want to ride a horse, they can--indeed, they can fall off if they want--but it is wrong to hunt wild animals.

Mr. Robathan: I suspect that the hon. Gentleman and I are not likely to agree on this point. He said that it was wrong to hunt and to put blood on a child's face. I do not especially like that practice, but is he seriously suggesting that we should legislate because, due to some bizarre tradition, huntsmen wish to blood children's faces? That is a bizarre suggestion.

As regards cruelty, of course we are not discussing an especially pleasant way of dying, but death is not pleasant. As the Burns inquiry found, fox hunting is more palatable than many other methods of pest control. Foxes are pests. If the hon. Gentleman believes that foxes should not be controlled, that is fine, but he should talk to farmers in my constituency who are concerned, for example, about the piglets that they lose to foxes.

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It is sad that we are concentrating on what the Government consider to be a vote catcher, rather than on the real issues and the crisis in the countryside. Farmers' wives come to see in me tears because their farms are going bust. Farmers are committing suicide at an appalling rate and are making constant losses. There is no money in agriculture, for a number of deep-seated reasons. The Government, however, are not going to do anything about that.

Some people find it genuinely depressing--I do not know whether they include Labour Members--that, during the recent fuel crisis, when farmers and others were demonstrating, at least two Labour Members said, "I don't particularly mind. What about all the miners who were put out of their jobs? There was no public sympathy for them." These are not tit-for-tat issues. I do not view all miners as Labour supporters or all farmers as Conservative supporters. One should be concerned about the humanity of the matter. More to the point, the management of the countryside affects everyone in the country greatly. I fear that the comments made by some Labour Members were vindictive and petty. I hope that none of them now present wants to intervene on that point.

The Government have the agenda. The hon. Member for Heeley mentioned hunting with dogs at the beginning of his speech. Also, there was the proposal for section 28--which, I am glad to say, is not coming back. Indeed, it is a peripheral issue. I was vociferous in opposing the Government's plans for the abolition of section 28, but it says a great deal about the mindset of the Government and of their activists and supporters that they should pursue at such great length the removal of section 28 from the statute book. The issue does not exercise the great British public, although, if they were asked, most would back the Conservatives.

The need to ensure that the education standard spending assessment is sufficient to fund the education of all children--a significant issue in places such as Leicestershire--has not been touched on, although it was mentioned in the pre-Budget statement. I am delighted that the Government seem to be moving on the matter. There is talk of floors in the SSA, but I hope for delivery rather than merely the few words that have been uttered so far.

The Queen's Speech contained nothing on transport. I find that pretty strange, as congestion is increasing on our roads--which is not new--and there are problems on the railways. People keep blaming those problems on privatisation, but I disagree entirely. The railways have been getting better, not worse, since privatisation. It is only recently that people have lost confidence in them, partly because the system has been criticised so much by the Government, among others.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Sir M. Spicer) spoke about the Nice summit and the treaty that might result from that. I do not want to cover all the ground that he covered.

Mr. David Amess (Southend, West): That is a shame.

Mr. Robathan: My hon. Friend encourages me to pursue that point, but I do not want to do so.

Most Opposition Members would love greater debate on Nice. Instead, it was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech. Let us have a debate on the euro, which is

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currently doing extremely badly. I for one do not want it to fail, although that may happen. I want it to prosper, as I want my European partners to prosper. Indeed, it would be bad for this country if it flopped and went bust, which could happen. I do not want it to be a disaster. However, let us have a debate on whether this country should join the euro. We all know what people feel; they do not want to be part of the single currency.

The euro or single currency is, of course, a political step. Everyone on the continent knows that. Every time the euro is discussed there, people talk about it being a political step and a move towards a more integrated Europe or, to adopt a much-used phrase, an ever-closer union. We should put to the vote the question whether the people of this country want to be part of an ever-closer union.

The European army has been much discussed in the past few weeks and will be mentioned at the Nice summit. We were told that it would not undermine NATO. Then along came William Cohen, who said that it would undermine NATO and that it would make it a "relic". There is much sense in greater co-operation with our European partners and in using our equipment and procurement methods better. However, the history of joint procurement with our European partners is not a happy one; indeed, it is pretty abysmal. There is no evidence of our European partners wanting to spend more money on defence. The French have been trying to split Europe and America on defence since 1968, when they left the military structure of NATO. There is no evidence to suggest that their motivation is changing.

We must understand that our experience and national interest are not always the same as those of Europe. Indeed, they are not always the same as those of America. Let us consider the current French policy on Iraq, as opposed to that of the Government, which I support. I wish that I could remember what the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), called the behaviour of the French. Anyway, he was not impressed with the French policy on Iraq, and neither am I. Very often, our national interests differ markedly in security terms from those of some of our European partners.

The Session is likely to be short. After the Queen's Speech, there are a few days to Christmas and then a few months before the calling of the general election. Vacuous and unworkable plans will be trumpeted. Some of them, such as the child curfews, will create many headlines. There will be a lot of spin and no substance. There will be display and showboating; it will all look marvellous, but there will be no delivery, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) pointed out earlier.

Experience of the past should influence our judgment. In Europe, experience of our partners' behaviour, the ever-closer union and the move towards integration should determine our view of the Nice treaty. The Government, with their promise that things can only get better, have raised expectations dramatically. I go to schools where teachers, who thought in 1997 that a bright new dawn was coming, tell me openly how disappointed they are. I go to hospitals where doctors--many of whom

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we might have assumed to be Conservative voters--thought that they would receive so much more from Labour. They have been gravely disappointed.

We have had over-regulation and interference. Above all, people outside the House do not believe what the Government say. I hope that those people will come back to the Conservative party. The opinion polls suggest that they are not doing so, but we all know that such results can change. Labour Members should remember that the Government's record reveals a great deal of display and no delivery--spin, not substance. I firmly believe that the Conservative party can win the next general election. Opinion poll results do not seem to favour that outcome but, from the experience of the past three and a half years, people should know never to trust the Government again.

7.20 pm

Mr. Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton, North-East): I am privileged to take part in the first day of debate on the Queen's Speech. There have been some excellent and entertaining contributions. The hon. Member for West Worcestershire (Sir M. Spicer) kept Labour Members in stitches for some time. I accept that he has a point of view, which he puts across with good humour and good grace, and it was a pleasure to be in the Chamber for that.

I especially want to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands), who gave an excellent speech in every respect. It was erudite and informed, and a magnificent swan-song--although I regret that it is a swan-song--on his last Queen's Speech. His understanding of his constituents provides a role model to which we should all aspire.

Let me refer to the first few words of the Gracious Speech. Every party in the House shares the Government's intention

Those are warm words and we must give effect to them. Most importantly, as the hon. Member for West Worcestershire said, productivity in this country has been poor since the end of the second world war. We seem unable to match the productivity growth of our competitors and, as world trade expands, we need to be ever more competitive. We cannot afford to languish.

Some gains have been made. We read about greater capital investment but, as I said in an intervention, two decades--if not longer--of underinvestment have had a deleterious effect on the whole of British manufacturing. Some people say that manufacturing is not of great importance because it employs 10, 12 or maybe 13 per cent. of the work force and accounts for only 20 per cent. of gross domestic product, but this island economy must export goods with the high added value of being produced by the craft, skill and hard work of British people. Inevitably, those are manufactured goods and many industries in this country's internal economy depend wholly on their production. Sadly, our machine tool industry has been decimated--I use the word in its mathematical sense--over recent years and we are unable to supply from our own resources machinery with a high level of technical innovation, which has led many nations to economic prosperity.

We have to address those problems. There is no single answer to improving productivity. It is not a simple matter of supply-side economics or education. There are two

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sides to the equation. Traditionally, it is a case of supply and demand. We have often failed to recognise that demand can and must be stimulated to get the supply side working properly to provide jobs for people who take the time, trouble and effort to become better able and better equipped to meet the needs of contemporary industry and commerce.

I despair when I hear people--again, the hon. Member for West Worcestershire comes to mind--say that our economy can be run on the classic lines of free enterprise and competition as though that is the answer to all our problems. It is not. The idea that we can leave everything to the market is palpable nonsense. The market does not work like that. It has to be aided and abetted by sensible policies of intervention to ensure that demand is being met and stimulated not just in the regions of the United Kingdom, but around the world. If we do not intervene, the market will never provide social justice, and if anyone in the House is not committed to social justice he must ask himself why he is in politics.

The hon. Member for West Worcestershire declared that the Government are being political. I thought about that for a moment or two and realised that I was perfectly sure that politicians come to Westminster to be political and to seek political answers to conundrums that they try to unravel and solve. I feel no shame in being absolutely political in trying to get the very best for my constituents and my country, for Europe and, indeed, for the world. That is an honourable way for a politician to proceed.

To pretend that the hidden hand can do everything for us is not credible. I remind hon. Members that when the hidden hand was relied on absolutely, as it was in the early 1980s, disaster befell us. In my constituency, without taking account of pensioner households, two out of five households had no one in work. Throughout the nation, 20 per cent. of households had no one in work. Nearly two generations of sons and daughters in my constituency did not know what it was to get a job. They became totally disconnected from the process of wealth creation.

I have had the sad, unfortunate and dreadful experience--as, I am sure, have other hon. Members--of constituents coming to me with their giros and asking, "What do they expect me to do with this?" It is usually a woman, no more than 20 or 22 years old, with one or two young children. She is not quite sure who "they" are; on Thursday mornings, someone drops through her letter-box a giro that, as far as she is concerned, could have come from a money tree. She is completely disconnected from the idea that going to work creates wealth that enables people to look after themselves. As my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney said, there is a dignity in having a wage and a good job.

As for the international criminal court, if ever there were two people who should be dragged before such a court for crimes against young people and their understanding of work and wealth, it is two former Members of the House who created a catastrophe for engineering and manufacturing in my constituency, the west midlands and much of the manufacturing capacity of this country.

I do not want to repeat those experiences. A company in my constituency operates in a global market. It was very successful until the past few years, but it has found the global economy exceedingly tough, and Wolverhampton

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might lose 3,000 jobs in the rubber industry. We cannot afford to do that. We must have measures that enable us to make progress on vital manufacturing jobs. I speak with passion, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney. Without such work, honourable and honest working people who want to provide for themselves have little or nothing to look forward to.

The Queen's Speech does not contain a commitment to legislate on housing, transfer of stock and arm's-length companies. When a statement is made, I plead with the Minister concerned to ensure that local authorities that suit their tenants, work hard and generally do a good job are treated no less favourably in terms of capital or revenue support or other opportunities than those authorities that choose, through the will of their tenants, to go into joint stock companies and other forms of tenancy.

Many of my constituents will jump for joy if we can make a reality of the Government's bid to reduce vehicle crime. So many of my constituents have had their cars stolen from their drives, myself included, and cars are broken into. My daughter's vehicle, a motor caravan, was stolen from her drive. We need to work together. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) talked about partnership arrangements, which we need because communities will become involved. We must ensure that people understand the seriousness of allegedly petty crimes.

The hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) mentioned the responsibility of parents, and I agree with him whole-heartedly. It does not matter how many policemen and women we have. Although that is important in catching and apprehending criminals, we need to understand what society is about in our approach to those who commit awful crimes by stealing other people's property. I want to see the Government's efforts come to fruition, with a reduction in vehicle and other forms of crime.

A draft Bill is to be published that will be designed

My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone and I served on the Select Committee on Trade and Industry during the arms to Iraq saga. It was clear that successive Conservative Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry cared little, if anything, of where arms manufactured in the United Kingdom, or imported and then re-exported from this country, were going. One Minister, now deceased, made his position clear by saying to his civil servants, "Never mind the niceties and never mind all of these licences. Get on and get things through. If we do not export arms to wherever we export them, other countries will." That has never been a proper and moral position for a politician to take.

We have a great armaments industry, which employs highly skilled workers. It is technologically advanced and produces defence goods for use in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the proper defence of our own state, and in the proper defence of other peoples from those who may infringe their countries. However, we must take measures to ensure that there is proper control and export licensing of the trade. It is a trade of death, and we must not forget that the only thing that comes out of the barrel of a gun is a bullet, which will kill people. We need the products of the armaments industry, but we must ensure that its products are properly controlled in the world's arenas.

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I was pleased to hear earlier in the year my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry set out our plans for greater transparency. The fact that they go further than the Scott report is to be welcomed. The publication of annual reports will give people an opportunity to see what the Government are doing. All men and women of good will will welcome the Government's move towards greater transparency and accountability in the use of the arms industry and in the way in which it aids our export efforts and keeps many people in jobs.

I said that my constituents would jump for joy if we could reduce car crime. Many people throughout the world will jump for joy in the knowledge that we are introducing a measure that will tend to ensure that we can ratify the international criminal court. We must sign up to it. It will have to be ratified by about 60 nations before it can be established. We live in an ever smaller world in terms of communications, interaction with others and the ability to travel. We can girdle the earth, as it were, in only a few hours. It is ever more important that, internationally, we act as a community to ensure that those who commit crimes against humanity, such as we saw in the 20th century and, regrettably, as we have seen so far in the 21st century, do not get away with them. We must act together as good neighbours in the international community. There must be an international court and international law to deal with such acts. They are exceedingly serious and I hope that many other countries will adopt Britain's view and sign up to the court.

It is not a great secret that there will be an election, certainly by May 2002. Who knows, it may be even sooner. It is my hope that much of what is in the Queen's Speech will find its way on to the statute book, not least the hunting with dogs Bill, which I believe will be well received throughout the nation.

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