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Mr. Forth: Will the hon. Lady consider at least two possibilities? One is that she and others like her may well have qualified for scholarships, which I hope will be much more freely available here, as they are in the United States. The other is that, possibly, the generations now are much more mature and capable of handling the idea of borrowing and indebtedness in a controlled and responsible way and for the best possible causenamely, educating themselves. Are not those big changes that would go some way to ameliorating the difficulties that she outlined?
Mrs. Roche: I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point. I listened carefully to his thoughtful speech. I did not agree with him, but I understood his train of thought. The situation in the United States is interesting. It is not just the poor children who do not get to Ivy League universities, but those from lower-middle-class income families. It has been strongly argued that Ivy League universities are much more elitist than universities in this country. I know of a family whose children are at Harvard. They got there purely on merit, but 13 generations of that family have been to Harvard. That makes the record of our universities pale into insignificance.
The difficulty with the right hon. Gentleman's argument is that bursaries and scholarships do not cover everyone. They may cover some people at the bottom of the scale, but they may not cover children from families who are a little above the minimum levellower middle class or upper working class, to use the old terminology. Those people will not make it, even though they have the ability and enthusiasm. That is the difficulty.
All of us want people with merit, ability and dedication to get to university, but if they are put off because of the variable nature of top-up fees, and if it deters them from choosing to go to what are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as some of our better universities, that will be greatly detrimental to those individuals and to society as a whole. We would lose their contribution and their ability, and those universities would be poorer places without them. I urge the Government to think again. I think that this idea is extremely divisive and could cause a great deal of unnecessary damage.
I shall end where I started. I am proud of what the Government have done so far, but there are tremendous challenges ahead. To ensure that we rise to those challenges and build on what we have achieved, we must talk a new language not only to the parliamentary Labour party and Labour party activists and supporters, but to the country as a whole. We must talk the language of inclusion and equality. We must ensure that we extend inclusiveness and equality where we can.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): Madam Deputy Speaker, I appreciate your calling me after the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche). It is interesting that I differed from the hon. Lady and the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who both confessed to having voted yes in the European referendum. I voted no, because I had read what had been done. What we discovered, even in the Maastricht debate, was fascinating. When the then Father of the House, Sir Edward Heath, was challenged on the fact that the European Union was supposed to be an economic union, he said that we all knew that it was a political union. The tragedy is that spinning has been going on in politics for a long time to confuse the unwary.
I wish to say a few words of caution to the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister and the other Membersincluding the proposer of the Loyal Address, the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall)who have referred to the elections taking place today in Northern Ireland. One regrets that the weather has proved to be unkind, but we will have to wait until tomorrow, when the count starts, and until Friday evening, when the last count is over, for the results.
It is interesting that a House of Commons brought into being by England, the mother of parliaments, has given us a system in Northern Ireland where, if one pundit is correct, there could be four differing parties, covering about 100 Members, pushed into a Government, with eight Members in opposition. It is a wonderful day for democracywe have decided to have a Government by d'Hondt. There is nothing in that situation that allows the electorate, as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase) said, to sack Members and to say that they have had their day. We must look more seriously at that aspect of the Province.
In England, people are complaining about the police service amassing fines from cameras. In east Belfast, a sign was put up next to a camera saying, "Motorists are fined and murderers are freed." We talk about a peace processthere has been a political process, which I welcomebut there is no real sign of one as yet. Some of those who would qualify, under d'Hondt, to go into government have a private army, which they equate with the constabulary, which was disarming around 196668 but was re-armed as a result of the insurrection. Subsequently, those people want the British Army to disarm. That is what they mean when they talk about demilitarisation. I would not hold my breath on that issue until we see how the count goes on Friday.
On the ground in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, there are hospitals that cannot cope with the demands made upon them. Some wonderful things have been done, and I pay tribute to the staff, but we live in an age in which people have greater expectations. It is folly for the Government to accuse the Opposition of trying to take money out of the health service by allowing a voucher to be used in private services. The family of a pensioner and ex-serviceman who required a heart operation had to pay £9,000 so that it could be carried out in a national health hospital. There are further cases of ordinary people, who were not part of BUPA or other private medical schemes, and who were told by the hospital that, regrettably, their operation could not be done on the national health service, but that it could be donein the same hospital and with the same facilities and staffif they paid up-front. We must reach beyond that degree of hypocrisy. The national health service, which I support and still use, is not properly funded to meet the demands of a generation who should not have to put up with second-class provision.
The points that were made about education are helpful. Graduates in my constituencyit is one of several in which house prices have rocketedtell me that they cannot afford a house there. How will these people be able to live in such areas if, on graduating and seeking a loan to purchase a house, they are burdened with a massive overdraft? They can go to private developers, but they charge very high rents for their properties. We must face that reality.
I share one of the views expressed by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). People speak about choice and discrimination in Northern Ireland, and I had a choice to make. As a student, I was called to the ministry. My scholarship could have taken me to Trinity college or to Queen's university, but I chose instead to go to Magee university college, Londonderry, and graduated ultimately from Trinity. Magee is a Presbyterian foundation that was open from the beginning to all types of students. In my time there, Roman Catholic students from outside Northern Ireland attended, because the bishops in Northern Ireland would not allow Northern Irish Catholics to go there. But the Government of the day did not spend a single penny on that college because it was under Presbyterian auspices. Ultimately, it became a completely secular college. While I was there, the theological faculty was separated and put in a remote house, and ultimately it was taken back to Belfast.
I had a similar experience to the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green. My family encouraged me to become a student. They never had a carI was the first member of the family to own oneand they made sacrifices. Perhaps I was one of the fortunate ones, in that I managed to get a job in the summer vacations, which helped me to pay my way through college. That
Returning to health, I regret the fact that people who served this country in Her Majesty's forces during the Gulf war, at the behest of the Government of the day, are still suffering. They have had to go to court to get an acknowledgement that their illnesses were at least aggravated by, if not due to, the failure of certain vaccinations received while serving in the Gulf. A recent case caught my eye because it involved someone in Knutsford, which is where my sister-in-law lives. Major Ian Hill's widow had to get the coroner's court to acknowledge that he died not of natural causes, but of causes that were at least aggravated by what is commonly known as Gulf war syndrome. As we anticipate the cutting of Army numbers, my plea is that we do not simply use soldiers in wartime and emergency situations and then forget them, as happened after the first world war. Back then, it was "Tommy this" and "Tommy that", but when the war was over it was just "Tommy rot". I believe that if our Parliament calls people to serve in the forces of the Crown at home or abroad, we should look after them because they are serving us.
The Prime Minister made a slip of the tongue, according to the Speaker, when I raised a point of order earlier. Unfortunately, too many slips of the tongue are a problem. In the modern world, politics becomes devalued when politicians promise one thing, using language that gives people the impression that something is to be done in a certain way, and then do something completely different.
Parliament in the United Kingdom begins its proceedings in prayer to the Almighty, so we should recognise that although people throughout the land have different viewpoints, there are moral standards, which are important not just within a Christian community, but apply to Jewish, Muslim and other communities. We recognise the problems of people who have particular relationships, but I regret to note that already the papers are talking about civil registrations and civil partnerships as though they were civil marriages. The more that Parliament devalues the family by devaluing the marriage of man and wife, the more difficulties we will face.
I recall one particular difficulty when we debated mental health legislation that applied to England some 20 years agothe question of how long relationships should last. One noted libertarian argued that three months was sufficient. I said in the debate that our American cousins called us the flip generation because we kept changing. I said that if the Committee regarded three months as the standard for a stable relationship, I believed that we had flipped. I wonder whether any consideration has been given to the definition of a lifelong or stable relationship. It was touched on earlier, and I hope that when it comes before us again, the House will give proper consideration to the issue.
We should not be trying to get rid of one inequality by introducing other inequalities. I think of the lifelong relationships of spinsters who often look after their parents even though they receive no benefits for doing so. In the Ulster countryside, rural bachelors have lived