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Mr. Simon Thomas: May I associate myself with the hon. Gentleman's comments about the need for a review of the Barnett formula? The last review took place when the formula was established in 1979 as a pro tem measure, but it has continued for more than 20 years. Does he agree, however, that if we are to review the formula, we should do so using a needs-based analysis of all the regions of England, Wales and Scotland? That might undermine his case that Wales is over-funded, but it could do a lot of good for the regions of England as well.
Mr. Kilfoyle: I do not claim to be an expert on finance in Wales, or, indeed, in England, Scotland or anywhere else. However, I know that different amounts of money go to different parts of the country. I accept that any resolution of that inequity must be carried out on the basis of need. As I understand it, the Barnett formula was originally introduced to dampen down the cries for devolution. It was, in a sense, a way of trying to buy people off. That does not strike me as a sensible way of achieving a financial settlement that pays due attention to the needs of all the people in the whole of the United Kingdom.
There are deeper issues to be considered at some point by the Government. Perhaps they are not issues on which we can legislate, but some concerns could certainly be addressed either administratively or in the extra legislation that might magically appear, to which the Prime Minister alluded in the House yesterday. One such issue is the widening economic gap between still depressed parts of the country and other parts which--fair play to them--seem to be doing rather well.
We experience on a day-to-day basis--I am sure that other hon. Members will have had similar experiences--businesses uprooting and moving to a different part of the country. They do not even go abroad, just to another part of this country, and they are using grants provided by the Government. The problem is therefore rotated from place to place. Jobs are created in one area at the expense of
At a recent meeting, I pointed out that in the north Liverpool poverty cluster--that is not my definition; it is from the London school of economics--there are 269,000 people. There is a crux area of six wards--my constituency. Four of those are among the poorest 12 wards in the United Kingdom. There is a concentration of poverty there that needs to be addressed, but, to be absolutely frank, the local council cannot and will not handle it. That is true not only of the Lib Dems, who are in now, but of the previous council, which could not get to grips with the enormity and complexity of the problems. That concentration of poverty needs to be addressed by significant Government intervention, which is as true of poverty clusters in Manchester, Leeds and central London as of those anywhere else. I look forward to that action.
I also feel strongly about an issue that might seem a little contentious: the idea that we can do nothing to address the widening gap between the individual rich and the individual poor is anathema to me. Some people say, "Well, that's the enterprise society." I see nothing enterprising in people getting a bigger and bigger share of the economic cake at the expense--there is no way to cloak this--of those at the bottom of the heap.
I also looked for a proposal that might enable me to feel more comfortable about the way in which employees in this country, in a variety of ways, still do not have the same conditions affecting their working life as employees in our partner countries in Europe. I still hope that, somewhere along the way, we will be able to consider those issues during this Parliament.
I referred to jobs that move within the country, and we all know that an announcement was made recently about consultation. That is one issue, and I understand that the Government have resolved it in respect of firms consulting with their employees before they up and move somewhere else. Many firms up and move to Europe and it remains a fact that it is easier to get rid of an employee in this country than in Europe.
When push comes to shove, global corporations undertake global reviews--for example, that announced by Glaxo last week, under which 700 jobs in Liverpool went. Jobs go because companies say that they have undertaken a global review, but that hides a multitude of sins. There may be sound economic reasons within that company to rationalise in such a way, but it is undeniable that one consideration in such a rationalisation is that it is far, far easier for it to get rid of employees in the UK than elsewhere in Europe.
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way and, as ever, I am following his penetrating analysis. Does he accept that there might just be a relationship between the happily low unemployment enjoyed by this country, which is comparable to that in the United States, and the Government's boast that inward investment is at a sustained level and that capitalists are voting with their money and coming here? Compare that with the situation
Mr. Kilfoyle: I accept that there is a relationship and I give the Government credit for the way in which they have sustained that inward investment, but there is always a cost. My priority has to be the constituency that I represent. We are on the outer rim, where people are the last to feel the benefit and the first to feel the pain. That is my point.
I am sure that the Government are inventive enough to address the issue, but unless we can find ways to equalise the playing field for companies that have taken the plunge and put the investment in--many do, let us be fair--people in the peripheral parts of the United Kingdom will always be the first to lose out. I hope that the Government will address those matters.
I want the Government to succeed and I look forward to them being returned at the next election, which is four years off. I would love Labour to get an equally huge majority--I make no bones about that. I do not worry about the democratic arguments in the way that Opposition Members may do. As far as I am concerned, if a party is given a mandate by the people, it should take it and do whatever needs to be done.
However, I do not believe that it will be quite so straightforward, as we approach the next election, to argue the case on delivery of public services unless we take the necessary and appropriate action now. I echo what my hon. Friends have said about this: it is not a case of simply having a knee-jerk reaction against public ownership or control and privatising everything. I take a pragmatic view and believe that some things need to be privatised. However, the idea that privatisation is always better is palpable nonsense. If we look to privatisation to cure one ill, it mystifies me why the logical corollary is not that we should take into public ownership something on which the private sector has failed, such as Railtrack. I cannot see how one possibility can be excluded while we embrace the other side of the argument. It does not make the pragmatic economic sense to which the Government aspire.
My biggest concern is that we re-engage as many people as possible in our political life. To do that, we must keep faith with them and deliver on our promises. I am sure that the Government will make every effort to do so, but the harsh reality is that they do not have a great deal of time. What is done over these first 18 months or so will determine the outcome down the line. I worry that if we are to get reciprocity from those who have lent their support hitherto, albeit in diminishing numbers out of the overall electorate, we must be able to deliver at the next election. That requires a more than technocratic approach to government in the coming months.
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), who is an old friend and always forthright in his comments. I was glad to hear that he rejects the third way; he will appreciate that I have more trouble with the fourth way in my normal practices.
Before I comment on the main thrust of the Queen's Speech, I should like to make a couple of comments. First, I congratulate the new Secretary of State for Education and Skills. She was a stellar performer as a junior Minister and she deserves her appointment to the Cabinet. Secondly, I thank the Secretary of State for Health for including in the Queen's Speech the Adoption and Children Bill. It started in the last Parliament with a lot of all-party support and the right hon. Gentleman knows my interest in it. It has some way to go in this Parliament.
May I make a plea to the right hon. Gentleman? We are undertaking a complex piece of social legislation. One of the great problems with bipartisan legislation is that it rarely gets the scrutiny that it deserves and it then goes wrong. We have a piece of legislation that could dramatically affect the lives of more than 50,000 children. I urge the Government to give the Bill all the time that it needs to receive proper scrutiny, perhaps continuing the Special Committee stage that was started in the last Parliament. That is the only way to ensure that that eminently sensible and worthwhile Bill gets on to the statute book in proper form and does the duty that it sets out to do.
I shall now adopt a slightly less conciliatory tone. The Government are without doubt the most powerful in half a century. That is not a compliment. During the last Parliament, they used their power to undermine the rights of Parliament and to diminish their own accountability. Those points have been raised by others already today. Nothing in the Queen's Speech, nor in what the Leader of the House or the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Soley) said earlier today, indicates that anything will be different in this Parliament.
Like my right hon. Friends the Members for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) and for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), who have spoken already, I am a member of Parliament First, a group founded by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) and consisting of Members of all parties of the House, and I am dedicated to reinstating the power of the House. Most particularly, I am committed to implementing the recommendations of the Select Committee on Liaison to enforce the effectiveness of this Chamber and the Select Committee system. We shall use every opportunity throughout this Parliament to advance that cause.
The fact that the Government are very powerful has another implication, which was touched on by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton. Throughout the previous Parliament, the Government blamed their predecessors for everything that went wrong, and claimed the credit for everything that went right. That is about to come to an end because those days are over. The Government have the power and the money, and they have already had plenty of time to deliver on their promises. They are running out of excuses. Indeed, they will be going into an excuse-free zone for the next four years. From now on, they will have to account for their failures--and there will be failures.
Although I believe that the Government have heard the expressions of irritation, anger and disappointment from constituents up and down the country, they do not understand how to respond. They have taxed more, spent more and interfered more. They still believe that by spending more, services will automatically improve and that bigger government is better government.
The increases in spending that were introduced in the Budget that preceded the general election will be unaffordable unless taxes rise substantially in the latter half of this Parliament. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton identified that problem in his usual forthright way.