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Mr. Marshall: I am more than grateful to my right hon. Friend for his intervention. He is correct. Furthermore, the poll taxperhaps the worst and certainly the most unpopular tax ever implementedwas introduced by "that lot opposite", as one Conservative Member used to call us.
Sir Brian Mawhinney: The right hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) was right on both counts regarding the introduction of the measures. On the other hand, will the hon. Gentleman compare his constituency mailbag in the first few years of the CSA's existence and in the last few years, and then tell the Housewith a straight facethat the service has improved?
Mr. Marshall: Perhaps I have been fortunate, but I have not had many CSA cases. In all the time it has been in existence, I have had fewer than 50 cases involving the CSA. That might say something about the CSA or about the way in which my constituents sort out their problemsI am not sure.
I take the opportunity of his intervention to wish my right hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley a long, hearty and healthy retirement. He, too, entered Parliament in 1979. I never mention it, but he was kind enough to write an article for the Scottish Parliament's Holyrood Magazine in which he pointed out that he was a candidate for my seat in 1976, when the selection process took place.
My right hon. Friend has something else in common with the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire. He is chairman of Heart of Midlothian football club. I do not know whether his ambition is to become chairman of the Scottish Football Association, but he could have picked a better club than Hearts to be the chairman of.
To continue on the Budget, I also warmly welcome the family tax cuts, which will help low-income families. So many of my constituents fall into that category that
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the measure will be especially welcome to them. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor's decision not to penalise servicemen and women who receive compensation awards will also be particularly welcome. Many of my constituents join the services, some for the wrong reasonnot because they want to, but because it is the only option open to them. As the father of a serviceman who recently returned home safely after completing a tour of duty in the Gulf, I know that the matter was of concern to my constituents, as well as a disincentive to good servicemen continuing in the forces. I therefore welcome the announcement.
I also welcome the standstill on excise duty on spirits. Increases in spirit duty are always counterproductive, because they result in falling sales and fewer tax revenues. The standstill will be particularly welcome in the Scotch whisky industry and in Scotland. I have two whisky companies in my constituencyDewar's bottling plant and Allied's Strathclyde distilleryand it will be welcome news for many of my constituents.
The raising of the stamp duty threshold for first-time buyers from £50,000 to £120,000 will be welcome in the east end of Glasgow, where the majority of properties fall into that price range. If those properties were situated in the west end of Glasgow, Edinburgh or London, they would be worth a great deal, but because they are in the east end of Glasgow, their value is much lower. Young people in particular find it very difficult to get a foot on the property ladder, and every little bit of help is welcome.
There is a definite need for decent, affordable socially rented housing, which local authorities used to provide. No matter what the interest rate or house prices, not everybody can afford a mortgage or take on such a responsibility. Many people who live in rented accommodation are at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords or live in squalor.
In the Govanhill area of my constituency, between 400 and 500 houses are still below a tolerable standard, and successive Governments have been unable to remedy that problem. They do not have proper bathrooms, central heating or hot water facilities. In many cases, they are owned by very poor people or by individual landlords who do not have the finances to do them up. Some of them are let to people who have mental health problems, problems with alcoholism or other problems, and such people are usually poor and require assistance.
A definite need exists for decent qualityfor lack of a better expressioncouncil houses or socially rented houses. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and his Cabinet colleagues will consider a house-building programme, perhaps along the lines of the scheme to which I referred when I discussed one of my predecessors, John Wheatley. We need more Wheatley houses in this day and age.
I welcome the recent announcement of the increase to national minimum wage rates, but I do not understand why a person must wait until they are 22 years old before
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they qualify for the top rate. Why should the limit not be 21? I accept that 18 is perhaps too low, but I cannot see the difference between 21 and 22. I hope that people will soon qualify at 21 for the top rate of the national minimum wage, which has done so much to help to take people out of poverty and to deal with employers who pay miserable wage rates.
I welcome the decision to defer fuel duty rises for the third year in a row. In my opinion, the motorist in this country feels that they are the most put-upon member of society today, given harassment from police and cameras and increasing petrol prices because of increases in the world oil price, which is outwith people's control. Motorists will welcome that help, because, whether we like it or not, people will do anything rather than give up their cars. In some areas, people will pay 50 per cent. or more of their disposable income to maintain their cars, and, once again, the poorest people suffer. A car can be a lifeline for someone to get out of an unpleasant environment.
I want to see schools teaching children to drive. If children are going to stay on at school until they are older, driving lessons should form part of the curriculum, which would not only deal with part of the joyriding problem, but give teenagers a skill that could lead to their finding all kinds of employment as bus drivers, lorry drivers or car drivers. Many people in my constituency cannot afford driving lessons and do not have access to a car. If they were given the opportunity to obtain a licence, I am sure that many of them could obtain employment.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): The Chancellor will get a windfall because of the VAT element of increasing petrol prices at the pump. No one has got off scot-free, because we are all paying the Chancellor more.
Moving on to the additional billions of pounds that have been pumped into education and the NHS, which is, of course, administered through the Scottish Parliament in Scotland: we are beginning to see substantial dividends, and the additional money announced today for primary school and secondary school head teachers will be welcome and will be used to advantage pupils. That is a good way of seeing that every school gets a share, rather than the previous practice of giving money to local authorities that perhaps have had other priorities, often for valid reasons. Such substantial sums of money going directly
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to schools will be of great benefit. I contend that the public sector is showing that it can deliver, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will support the public sector delivery of public sector services.
I welcome all that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has done to tackle child poverty. Some 200,000 Scottish children have been raised out of poverty since he came to office, and I support his campaign eventually to eliminate child poverty in the UK and also to tackle it worldwide, wherever it may occur.
Many of my constituents may be relatively poor in financial terms, but they are indeed rich in spirit and generosity, especially in support of appeals such as the recent tsunami tragedy appeal. Some of the largest numbers of representations that I receive from constituents relate to third world debt and poverty.
On third world debt and poverty, I pay the greatest possible tribute to my right hon. Friends, and, as the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire has pointed out, I also pay tribute to successive Governments and to successive Ministers. However, I reserve the highest possible tribute for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, who has become the undisputed world leader in attempting to tackle third world debt and poverty. That is typified by his announcement this afternoon that the UK will unilaterally give 100 per cent. relief to 19 of the world's poorest countries during our presidency of the G8. The other seven countries will hopefully be shamed into doing likewise, and we shall see what happens.
In conclusion, we have the lowest unemployment for more than 30 years and the lowest interest and mortgage rates for 35 years. Instead of the Tory party philosophy of unemployment being a price worth paying, and the boom and bust of Tory Budgets, we have stability, stability and stability. This Budget lays firm foundations for a third-term Labour Government, and I am delighted to support it.
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