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Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): The hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) said some peculiar things. He said that everyone had a death certificate. No living person has a death certificate. If he wants to establish the point, perhaps he will show me his death certificate. He then said that he supported privatisation of the airlines, but criticised British Airways and said that it was a mix between Easyjet and Ryanair. What are Easyjet and Ryanair but the cutting edge of the cheap end of the private market? His examples told against his own argument.
I wish to say a few words about the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Gill). My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) and I were impressed by the comments that he made about Jim Marshall. Although the Chamber is not well attended, these things get around and his comments are liable to be reported in the Leicester press. Our respected former colleague meant a great deal to people on both sides of the Chamber.
The hon. Member for Leicester, South quoted at length from a speech by Jim and said a great deal about ethnic groups and cultural links within his constituency. Such links are telling for a person such as me. The
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constituency that I represent has one of the smallest ethnic minority populations in Englandit is in the bottom 10. When people who have picked stuff up from the Daily Mail or other sources and would push rather racist arguments, I say to them, "The problem is that you do not know what areas are like. Go to places such as Leicester and see what the communities are like and interlink. You will see that many of the perceived problems do not exist or can be overcome if people work together."
I canvassed in Leicester, Southunsuccessfully. It was very interesting. I canvassed in areas called Chesterfield road, Staveley road and Dronfield road in my constituency. I also represent part of Staveley. I used to visit Leicester, South a great deal. There was once a firm there called Blackfriars Press, which was associated with the Labour movement. I was on the board of Blackfriars Press. It was the only occasion when I have been on the capitalist wing of things rather than on the workers' side. It was interesting to be in that area, which had differences and distinctions from the area that I reside in and that I now represent.
I travel by train from Chesterfield to London. The last time that I passed through Leicester, the Sunderland-Leicester match was about to begin. I am a Sunderland supporter, and unfortunately I missed the match; it was one of the few occasions when we have won against Leicester. The only times I have been to Leicester, we have always been beaten by Leicester City.
I was pleased to be in the Chamber for the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Leicester, South. I do not know how people will judge him. When I made my maiden speech, Dale Campbell-Savours, now Lord Campbell-Savours, was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) what he thought, and my hon. Friend said, "He is a late-night kamikaze pilot." I did not know what a late-night kamikaze pilot was. The House used to sit late in those days, sometimes through the night, which we do not now, and a handful of people could keep the whole thing going and cause all sorts of problems for the Government of the day. Dale Campbell-Savours knew before I did that I was a late-night kamikaze pilot. Perhaps some of us have ideas about the contributions that the hon. Gentleman will make in the future.
If there is a general election in May next year, this is the last contribution that I will make to a Queen's Speech debate. I hope that hon. Members will not mind if I am a little self-indulgent. I will attempt always to be in order and will refer throughout to items contained in the Queen's Speech, but I may do so in a rather personal way.
That is a matter of considerable interest to me. I started my working life as a railway clerk. Even when I engaged in my national service, I was working as a rail transport official in Basra with the Iraqi state railway. The privatisation of the railways here was the most doctrinaire piece of privatisation that the Conservative Government entered into. They had no understanding of the nature of railways. Even in the 19th century,
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people such as Alfred Marshall, who was not a socialist economist, said that railways were natural monopolies. They said that we had to recognise that they developed as monopolies and therefore we had to regulate and control them. To try to work a system in which someone controlled the rail track and different companies ran over the same lines was nonsense. Until we invent some "Beam me down, Scottie" system and we do not need railways, the notion that we can apply such extreme privatisation and competitive principles to the operation of a system such as the railways is nonsense.
Mr. Barnes: There may be some problems with European law and I could suggest avenues for seeking to come to terms with them. It strikes me that, whatever the local difficulties with European law, the answer for the railways is that we should have a decent public ownership system. That is the policy of the Labour party conference. When the matter is brought before the House, it will be discovered that some of us will try to push the Government further. We will seek to tackle the matter that the hon. Gentleman has just raised.
I mentioned that part of my railway clerk experience was as a member of the forces. I was in the RAF in Basra in a movements unit that used to move troops and goods from the port and Basra up to Baghdad to be taken up to the camp in Habbaniya. The Queen's Speech says that the
I am one of those who opposed the invasion, but I realise that once the invasion had taken place, new sets of circumstances began to be created. I would have preferred to give assistance and encouragement to the considerable forces of opposition in Iraq at different stages who wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein and change the system. When people struggle within their own system, they develop organisations and arrangements that are part of the transformation and have the potential to build a democratic society. That was not done. Such organisationsclandestine bodiesexisted, but the invasion still took place.
We must now look to the development of a democratic Iraq, with civic provisions in a new framework. We must argue against unacceptable military action and try to prevent its worst excesses, but we must realise that terrorism cannot be allowed to rule the roost; it must be contained and people must be defended in order to build democratic provisions and arrangements. There are considerable forces in Iraq that look towards those thingswomen's organisations, youth organisations, ex-prisoners organisations, community groups, trade unions and bodies such as the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, which has 200,000 members in 14 organisationsin a setting of 50 per cent. unemployment, massive problems and difficulties about which forms of privatisation will take place. Will it be a rip-off, as it was when the regime changed in the Soviet Union? There are worries about those issues, but there are forces for a better Iraq.
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Democracy is not just about voting in a ballot; it is about civil liberties, organisations and people's rights and freedoms to press their corner and get involved. I am joint president, with my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), of Labour Friends of Iraq, and I am keen that other political parties should establish similar groups. Our joint presidency is symbolic, as my hon. Friend supported what she would call a liberation, but which I call an invasion, while I opposed it, so it shows that people can come together on specific items and work in current circumstances to try to determine a way forward and whom they should assist.
I was an adult student. Some people need second opportunities in education, but I was a late developer. I was lucky enough to go to Ruskin college with no formal qualifications and, after a two-year course, to gain a diploma. It was through that avenue that I was able to go to university. Much is being done to extend lifetime education in various fields, often with associated modules and certification that enable people to move into other sectors. To some extent, that has squeezed the old, liberal adult education tradition in places such as Northern college, near Barnsley, and Ruskin college. We should realise that that element still exists.
People change their interests in life and there is much more information in the media to grab people's interest and help them to develop their potential without having to qualify for certificates and modular recognition at an early stage, so an open form of education and the time to study in institutions such as those I mentioned is worth while.
I taught access courses at Sheffield university. People with no formal qualifications who studied those courses did better at university or college than those who had not had the opportunity to go down that avenue. I hope that the Government consider such forms of education as an important element that can add to the valuable work that is being done elsewhere.
The right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) suggested that age should be added to those categories. I am worried about those matters[Interruption.]not just about age. To discriminate or attack people on grounds of race, sex, disability or age is entirely unacceptable and we should have the strongest legislation against that. However, if someone attacks another person on the ground of religion, we must be careful about where we draw the boundaries. If a person is abusive or derogatory about another person's religion, that is an extreme form of attack and action is justified to protect people. However, discussion and argument about religious matters is of considerable importance.
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