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Let us look at what the Conservatives did in officethey cannot shy away from that periodto deal with administrative waste. The hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir) spoke about the collapse of an IT system; sadly, in government such things are not new. The investments made in IT by the Home Office and the former Department of Social Security were disasters, and both occurred under the Conservatives. What did the Conservatives do about public expenditure year on year? This Government have moved to three-yearin some cases, five-yearrolling programmes, thereby enabling us to know what will be invested in each Government Department. That saves money, because investment in Government Departments is planned for the long term. There is none of the rash spending at the end of the year, whereby representatives of each Department went to the Government and said, "All the money has been spent, and obviously it has been spent wisely, because it has all gone." The idea was that, with a little luck, they could spend enough to go slightly over, and put in a bid for a bit more for next year. If that is wise spending, it is not what a typical housewife or ordinary family would advise doing with a budget. Implementing a three-year rolling programme is a wise way of getting rid of waste.
On the subject of waste and sound investment, we should consider some of the reforms that Conservative Members overlooked. They made great play of health policy this evening, but primary care trusts have made great savings in my constituencyon drugs budgets, all aspects of screening and the administration of health. The savings have been ploughed back into patient care, which has experienced record investment. It is not investment in nothing; I can say precisely where it went.
Some of the capital expenditure invested in my constituency was an absolute necessity. Equipment in some hospitals was at the point of collapse. A couple of days after the new Labour Government took office in 1997, we would have been lucky if operations could have been undertaken without a sticking plaster over the dilapidated equipment. My constituency has, however, now had a new hospital, new screening equipment, and
Neonatal intensive care is another important issue in my constituency. If we want to assess whether a community is prospering, figures on mortality are highly significant, and neonatal mortality is perhaps most important to families. Great improvements have been built on investment in new technologies and new treatments that did not exist or were not used before 1997. Such advances in medical and health care are important. People are being treated in a way that was not possible before, because neither the equipment nor the specialist nursing staff existed. That is the sort of investment that we want, and I can see it happening in my constituency.
No two places in the country are alike. In fact, no two wards in my constituency are alike, so it is not surprising that economic development has to be considered on a local and regional basis; talk of a north-south divide is long past its sell-by date. Holme Valley South in my constituency is rated 6,299 out of 8,414 wards, whereas Crosland Moor rates only 861st. The two wards are a microcosm of the overall picture. The well-off people in Holme Valley South earn, on average, £28,000 a year, whereas the average national income per family is £23,000 a year and the average for Kirklees, where my constituency is based, is £21,000 a year. That provides an index of relative prosperity. In Crosland Moor, however, average earnings are about £19,500.
In what sort of jobs and industry are people engaged in those two areas? In Crosland Moor, far too many people7.5 per cent. are not engaged in any industry at all because they are not in work. In the rest of my constituency, only about 2.3 per cent. of the work force are unemployed. We have clear divides not just between north and south, or between Yorkshire, Scotland and elsewhere, but within constituencies. There are huge divides between what people earn and how well off they are.
In looking at public investment, we should look at Crosland Moor, the poorest ward in my constituency and one of the poorest in the country. Investment there has been made in the public sector and, specifically and most effectively, in schools. In 1997, the exam results in schools in Crosland Moor showed that only 28 per cent. of pupils were attaining five GCSEs at A to C. Now, 58 per cent. of pupils are achieving those essential GCSEs to help them develop their careers. That increase is mirrored exactly by the amount of investment made in the area.
We should make no apologies for the fact that there has been greater investment in Moor End high school, which is now a technical college and has achieved specialist status, than in Holme Valley South school. The reason is clear. Some 68 per cent. of pupils in that school attain the levels of achievement I mentioned, and it is wise and sensible not to leave some people behind in our economy. Why should pupils in Moor End high
The vast majority of people in my area work in manufacturing and, overall, they earn less than those working in the service sector. In Holme Valley South, the richest of my wards, almost everybodyapart from 6 per cent.works in services. That tells us something about how people earn, and we can then look at how they spend their money.
My constituency has a close relationship with the textiles industry. Recently, we had one steel business, but, sadly, Bekaerts, the Dutch company concerned, decided that the underwiring for ladies' undergarments did not need to be made in Britain. I am afraid that ladies will no longer be able to buy British underwired bras. [Interruption.] I do not know whether I like to be upheld by the British or not, but we will see what the quality of the new underwired bras of the future will be. The company took the business not to China or elsewhere in Asia, but to Europe; indeed, the company produces most of its wiring in Holland and Germany. It did not do so because there is less red tape there; indeed, we could argue that there is more.
We must look deeply at different industries and sectors. The hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir) needs to do the same when he looks at some of the new businesses that he said had fled our shores. Some of the companies in the "micro-bubble" may have over-extended and over-anticipated sales. There is now a different scenario for the mobile phone industry, for example, and for others that are easy to move around the world. The textiles industry is not portable; it uses cumbersome machinery that cannot be picked up.
I would argue that, in most of the wards that depend heavily on textiles, every single person has found new employment when a factory closure has been announced. We could argue that it does not matter as long as people are in high-quality and well-paid jobs. We might argue that we should not be bothered whether we have a textiles industry at all. However, I think that we should be bothered. We need a diverse economy. That is why we need a Yorkshire plan.
Last Friday, I spoke at a conference held by the Transport and General Workers Union and the textile employers confederation. The other speaker was the chief economic adviser to the Treasury, so I was in good company. The conference underlined what I think the Budget should be abouta regional response to economic growth.
We need a plan for Yorkshire. The regional development agencies made a start. I was heavily critical of Yorkshire Forward in its early years. I did not feel that it took textiles seriously. Its attitude was familiar: as long as there is some sort of job, why should people be bothered? Conversely, the impression was given that that was not an issue for people who were not in objective 1 or 2 areas.
I think that we should be concerned about all areas. Britain should not be a country of several speeds. We should look at investing in all areas, so that people in my constituency run at one speedthe fastest and best speed, so that that they can be part of everything.
For me, that means that it is not good enough for industry to say that corporation tax cuts do not affect people, and that the grant systems are too complicated to make applications worthwhile. My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), my next-door neighbour, said that new businesses apply very quickly for grants. However, textile firms are in a very old trade, and they do not want to apply for grants at all, mainly because they feel that they do not want to give up control of their businesses.
The European country with the best growth in textiles is Italy. The Italian product is no better than the British product, but its image is different. The Italian way of business is more collaborative, and British business cannot afford to stay as it has always been, producing the same old cloth with no regard to what customers want. Some Ministers have fallen foul of the usual questiondo people wear British clothing?but manufacturers must not blame customers for not wanting British products. They must look at what they should be producing.
There are good examples in Europe. It is not true that the Italians can produce something better than we can, or that they somehow bend and break all the state aid rules. Using collaborative methods, it is perfectly possible to invest in industries throughout the supply chain. Producers clustering together can have a real impact on the economy, enabling textiles to be part of Britain's future prosperity.
By using that approach to release some of the energies in the RDAs and allow them to do more of what they have been doing, I believe that a real turnaround could be achieved. In my area, the RDA has invested £963,000 in the Huddersfield textile centre of excellence. It has also invested a further £500,000 in a new building for the centre. That money is being spent on new units, and on securing more collaboration between universities and businesses, to ensure that the designers of the future stay in the north and do not automatically go to Milan, London or New York.
We need people with the necessary skills to stay at home, and to feel that they have a future. Grants have been made available for new start-up businesses, so that they can put their energies into traditional factories run by traditional owners. The newcomers will be able to set out the new way forward for textiles. Although the traditional woollen cloth was very good and of high quality, we need to provide some of the things that people want to buy.
In addition, there are new textiles that can be used in the infrastructure of machinery. Reference is often made to the textiles used in the computer industry, but they can be used even in the car industry. I do not only mean as part of the upholstery, either, as a car chassis can be made from fibre. We have an opportunity to take what is old, invest in it and turn it into something new. If we allow the RDA to develop, invest in it and use it in a way that suits Yorkshire and lets Yorkshire people decide for themselves what is best for their economy, every part of Colne Valley can start to move at one speed. It will not be the Crosland Moor, going down hill speed, but will grow faster and faster so that there are Holme Valley Souths all over Yorkshire.