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Dr. Starkey: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
Sir Brian Mawhinney: No. I am sorry, but I have only a limited time.
Despite all the community efforts--neighbourhood watch, farm watch and all the rest of it--people know that the real problem is resources. What my constituents want is not more statistics but more action.
When we considered the legislation that introduced anti-social behaviour orders, I asked the Home Secretary whether the Government would legislate to stop the practice of prostitutes' cards being plastered all over the phone boxes of London. I did so with the support of Westminster city council. The Minister may remember that I handed a number of those cards to the Home Secretary across the Dispatch Box--they were safely in an envelope. In his response, the Home Secretary told the House that he would act swiftly. He and I agreed that this practice needed to be made illegal.
I was grateful for a letter that I received this very week from the Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke). He said that he was writing to me because I had an interest in the matter, and added:
The Minister of State wrote that a consultation period had followed, and ended by telling me:
The proposed Bills reflect Government failure, not Government success, and that is how they will be understood come 5 April or 3 May. I ask the Minister to start getting serious about translating into action in my constituency some of the promises that the Government have made.
Mr. John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): As my predecessor said in his maiden speech,
Donald stood for many things, but his lasting legacy will be his endless work to achieve social justice for all, regardless of their ethnic, religious or social background. No one can fill his shoes, but I will try to walk in his footsteps. He was one of a kind, and will be remembered by many as a man of high ideals and principles. The recent by-election was perhaps not as memorable as the one that he fought in 1978. That was a turning point in Scottish politics. The nationalists were riding high until that by-election in Garscadden, but they never recovered from the defeat and as a result Scotland can be said to have been Labour to this day.
The Anniesland by-election a few weeks ago may not have the same lasting effect as that in Garscadden, but time will tell. It certainly dented SNP morale, and I hope it will be the platform for a famous Labour victory in Falkirk, West next week.
Like Donald, I can say that Glasgow is my home. In fact, I was born in the constituency--more years ago than I care to remember--and I live there now. I am proud to be a Glaswegian, and to be the representative of Anniesland in the House.
The area of Anniesland is not known for its scenery or architecture, but, as someone who has spent most of his life there, I have always found that it is the people who make the difference. They are without doubt the friendliest, most fair-minded and politest of people and, despite the many problems they have experienced, I hold them in the highest esteem. I would submit them for comparison with people anywhere in the country.
The people of Anniesland have many different backgrounds and social standards, but whether they come from Drumchapel, Yoker, Knightswood, Blairdardie, Anniesland, Kelvindale or Jordanhill, I shall be honoured to represent them.
The issues raised during the by-election were, in my opinion, those that will be raised at the next general election: pensions, the health service, education, jobs, housing and social justice. There was a general feeling that the Government had done a good job on all fronts. Although there was a low turnout of 38.5 per cent., a colleague said--and I feel that he hit the nail on the head--that the only time there was a high turnout at a by-election was when a highly unpopular Government or a popular Opposition were in place. As Labour won well over 50 per cent. of the votes, neither must be the case. The result appears to support my colleague's opinion.
The constituency of Glasgow, Anniesland has one of the highest proportions of over-60s in the country-- 31.4 per cent. Thanks to the present Government, they are better off to the tune of £5 for single pensioners and £8 for pensioner couples from next April. Moreover, we should not forget the £200 winter fuel allowance that they have just received, and the free television licences for over-75s.
Health is important to everyone, but to the elderly in particular. I was happy to see the promise of extra investment in the Queen's Speech, and the commitment to modernising health care. That shows Labour's continued commitment to the NHS.
Unemployment in Anniesland is higher than the national average, but, thanks to the present Government, it has fallen by nearly 14 per cent. in the past three years. Since the new deal started in April 1998 more than 1,100 young people have started on the programme; 437 have found work through it and 390 have gained work experience or training through new deal options.
I was extremely pleased to see other excellent proposed legislation in the Queen's Speech, which will be of interest to the people of Anniesland. I believe that the criminal justice and police Bill, which we have been discussing, will help to solve the problem of young people making a nuisance of themselves. The only thing that I would ask for is extra money to allow local councils to invest in facilities to keep those young people interested in matters other than vandalism and crime in general. Keeping the young off the streets is only part of what is needed.
The Hunting Bill is another measure that is long overdue, and I shall be happy to make my vote count. My main thanks, however, must go to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has managed the country's finances with an even hand. He has made it possible for us to give increases to pensioners and to raise spending on the health service, as well as putting the economy in a position that enables us to bring down unemployment and maintain low inflation. As they say in Scotland, he is a canny Scot, and I am sure that the next Finance Bill will continue the good work.
All that legislation and more will be well received by the people of Anniesland. However, although I am happy with the content of the Queen's Speech, I would like to see more radical legislation in future to meet the needs of the elderly and the unemployed in particular and, in general, the needs of those who look to a Labour Government to give the helping hand that our opponents refuse. I have already mentioned extra money for councils to use for youth projects and I would particularly like help to be provided in educating the young on the misuse of drugs, and a way to be found of communicating to them the harm that they do themselves.
I believe that the Government have done well in the past three years. With a stable economy, we are now seeing the benefits of good, sound management. The moneys given to health, education and employment, social services and pensioners have shown who really cares about the people of this country. The fact that unemployment has fallen so sharply, and the introduction of the minimum wage, back that up. Some years ago, I remember, people--including some Opposition Members--were saying that the minimum wage would increase joblessness. How wrong could they have been?
In closing this, my first speech in the House, let me say again what an honour it is to serve the people of Glasgow, Anniesland. I give my word that I will do my best to achieve all that is expected of a Labour Member of Parliament. I will always have an open door to those people, and an open mind to policies that seek to improve their lives. I will try to ensure that Donald Dewar's legacy of social justice for all, no matter who they are or their walk of life, is continued.
I thank hon. Members for their tolerance.