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Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, Shettleston) (Lab): It is my great privilege to follow the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir Brian Mawhinney), who came into the House 26 years ago at the same time as me. I am sure that the whole House will join me in wishing him a long, happy and healthy retirement.
Mr. Francois: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way and I will not detain the House for long. By convention there are no winding-up speeches on the first day of debate on the Budget, so having heard the valedictory speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir Brian Mawhinney), who spoke for half an hour and held the House for that entire time, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to say humbly from the Opposition Front Bench that the whole House will miss my right hon. Friend in future. After hearing in detail what he said, I think that we on the Conservative Benches will miss him particularly and I take this opportunity to place those comments on record and thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in giving way.
Just where can I begin after such an excellent Budget speech from our Chancellor? I can only give his ninth Budget speech a warm welcome and say how much I look forward to hearing his tenth. My right hon. Friend has rightly earned his place in history as our greatest modern Chancellor and perhaps as our greatest Chancellor ever.
This may be my last contribution as the MP for Shettleston, not for the reasons that some of my hon. Friends have been teasing me about recently, but because of the massive boundary shake-up and renaming of many constituencies in Scotland that will
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take place at the forthcoming general election. As the House is no doubt aware, we are reduced from 72 to 59 constituencies. The name of my constituency will disappear and as the constituency has existed for 87 years, I would like to say a few words about it.
Believe it or not, the first MP for Shettleston, when it became a constituency in 1918, was a Conservative. He was the first and also the last Conservative to represent the constituency. Rear-Admiral Adair was elected in 1918 and did not seek re-election in 1922.
The legendary John Wheatley won the 1922 election for the Independent Labour party and became Minister of Health in the 1924 Labour Government. His Housing (Building Facilities) Act 1924 may have been one of the best and most important measures ever to go through the House of Commons. It led to the construction of hundreds of thousands of houses, mostly by councils at affordable rents for people who needed decent homes. Some of my very elderly constituents still say that they live in a Wheatley house and are proud to do so.
John Wheatley had the talent and ability required to become the leader of the Labour party, but sadly it was not to be: he died in early 1930. He was followed by John McGovern, Independent Labour party and later Labour, who held the seat until 1959, when my predecessor, Sir Myer Galpern, then Lord Provost of Glasgow, became the Member of Parliament for Glasgow, Shettleston. Just prior his retirement in 1979, he occupied the Chair in which you now sit, Mr. Deputy Speaker; he was a popular and distinguished Deputy Speaker until he moved to the other place on becoming Lord Galpern. I was fortunate enough to succeed him.
It is a matter of regret that the traditional names of constituencies in cities such as GlasgowShettleston, Govan, Springburn, Maryhill and so onare disappearing, to be replaced by almost meaningless geographical indicators, such as north, south, east and west. Glasgow, Shettleston is to be divided in two: one half is to become part of the new central constituency; the other half, including Shettleston itself, the area in which I have had the pleasure and privilege of living for the past 35 years, will merge with the Glasgow, Baillieston constituency to form the new Glasgow, East constituency, which I hope to represent after the election.
I had to sit on the Opposition Benches for 18 years, listening to one wretched Conservative Budget after anotherBudgets that destroyed working-class families and communities throughout the United Kingdom, but especially in Scotland and particularly in Glasgow. We experienced closure after closure, job loss after job loss. My constituency has always had more than its fair share of life's trials and tribulations, but it has faced up to them. It was distressing to see the hopes and aspirations of young school leavers being destroyed by the fact that there were no jobs available for them. Once, there were two jobs available to 2,000 young people in the Parkhead area, such was the scale of the problems we faced. I had to watch adults of working age
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descending into poor health and depression because of unemployment and poverty, and old-age pensioners dying before their time because they had to choose between eating or heatingthey could not afford to do both. That happened during Mrs. Thatcher's so-called glorious years. All we were left with was a legacy of misery, despair, huge health and social problems and unemployment running at more than 20 per cent.
I never want to hear another Conservative Budget as long as I liveand I hope that I have a lengthy period left to me, even though I have now exceeded by one month the average adult male life expectancy in my constituency, which is 14 years less than the UK national average and the lowest in the UK. That is the legacy inherited by an area that was once the workshop of the empire, turning out tradesmen, engineers and skilled workers by the barrowload. The area was reduced to an industrial desert and is starting to recover only now.
The eight years that have passed since Labour came to power have witnessed a remarkable turnaround. Unemployment has been slashed to about 8 per cent.still far too high, but at least it is falling. The new deal, the national minimum wage, the winter fuel allowance, all the tax credits, the increased family allowances, the free television licences for the over-75s and the free eye tests for pensioners have all helped to make life that bit better and easier for my constituents. The Budget will continue that improvement and I am sure that my constituents, like people throughout the UK, will think long and hard before they even give a second thought to allowing the Conservatives back into power.
Since 1997, more than 50,000 jobs have been added to Glasgow's employment base. Sadly, however, 100,000 peopleone in three of the available work forceare still classified as economically inactive. In the past 12 months, I have been delighted officially to open two new Jobcentre Plus offices, in Bridgeton and Shettleston, and two new working neighbourhoods pilot schemes, in Gorbals and Parkhead. Although the offices and projects are working hard to tackle problems of long-term unemployment and people who have illness or disability and face barriers to employment, they cannot succeed on their own.
Such are the problems in Glasgow that more help is needed. Glasgow is Scotland's only metropolitan area and should be recognised as such. The city council, Scottish Enterprise Glasgow and the Scottish Executive desperately need Westminster's help if the city's problems are to be overcome. I therefore welcome the Chancellor's announcement today of the new deal for jobs and skills, and his announcement about apprenticeships. That is precisely what my constituency needs. I hope that we can find a way to ensure that apprenticeships are not confined to youngsters but benefit adults who may have lost their job years ago and need to retrain. Such people are often good workers who have been left to rot; all they need is an opportunity to retrain and learn the skills that will enable them to find employment.
I especially welcome all that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is doing for pensioners throughout the UK. Maintaining the level of the winter fuel allowance will be popular, as will the 13 per cent. increase in their tax credits, free local bus travelalthough, to its credit, the Scottish Parliament has already introduced free bus
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travel in Scotlandand the new £200 help with council tax bills. All those measures will improve pensioners' quality of life.
Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab/Co-op): I hesitate to interrupt my hon. Friend, who is proving that he is as eloquent as the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir Brian Mawhinney). The Commons' loss is football's gain and we wish the right hon. Gentleman well in the Football League. However, he blamed the present Government for the problems with the CSA, and the Leader of the Opposition blamed us for the council tax. Will my hon. Friend remind the House of when both the CSA and the council tax were instituted, which I believe was under the Conservative Government?
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