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Mr. Iain Luke (Dundee, East) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) on his farewell speech to the House, which was eloquent and forceful, although I disagree with some of his comments on the NHS. I wish him a happy, long and healthy retirement so that he can watch the health service go from strength to strength under continuing Labour Governments.
I am pleased to make a further contribution to the Budget debate. This is the eighth Budget of two successful Labour Administrations and it maintains the Government's efforts to secure Britain's continued economic prosperity. During an earlier exchange the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien), who has now left the Chamber, said that performance was not as good in the English-speaking economies of the world, and the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) asked if Scotland was among those economies. I am firmly committed to Scotland remaining within the English-speaking economies as part of the Union.
Members of the Conservative Opposition who deride the Budget deserve what they getfurther years in opposition. I am surprised that so many English Tory Members talk down Britain. That is why we need a Scottish raj, if there is such a thing, to ensure that Britain continues to be great. The efforts of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor lie at the heart of that.
We are at the beginning of a new millennium, and world trade and competition are now truly global. The Budget provides the vision and provisions that will avoid the boom and bust practices of the past. As recently as the early 1990s, those practices were visited upon us and my city suffered as badly as any. I hope that, under present policies, such recessions are a thing of the past. The Budget also aims to achieve social justice and economic well-being for all, goals with which I can clearly identify.
I understand why the Opposition want to make cheap political points in this debate: they are unnerved by the prospect of losing yet another general election. However, the citizens of Britain do not want cheap political shots: they want to know that the finances of this country are in safe, capable, prudent and expert hands. The real headline behind this and the previous seven Budgets is that they are.
I want to focus on the measures in the Budget aimed at creating ever more enterprise and employment opportunities for the people whom I have been elected to serve: the constituents of Dundee, East. I wish to concentrate primarily on the fostering of small businesses and the building of a knowledge-based economy.
I welcome the further steps in the Budget set to promote further investment, more jobs, higher levels of skills and more small business start-ups in areas like my own. At the outset, I wish to echo the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall): I, too, never want to hear another
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Conservative budget as long as I live, nor do an overwhelming majority of my constituents. Scotland rejected Margaret Thatcher, as it will undoubtedly reject the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), a politician who was responsible for the introduction of some of the worst aspects of Thatcherism in the past and is dedicated to reintroducing them in greater measure in the future. That was called a golden legacy in the opening speeches, but it tastes bitter to the people of Scotland and others throughout the UK.
I have been glad to serve the city of Dundee, which has moved on so much since 1997. Unemployment has been halved and youth unemployment virtually eradicated by the new deal. Dundee is going forward, not back. It is going forward along the path clearly set out by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. Dundee deserves and demands full employment, and this Budget sets out the next stage in the agenda to achieve it by ensuring that the conditions that encourage small businesses to be created, sustained and built on are firmly in place. I spend a lot of time visiting small businesses in my city, as other hon. Members do, to ensure that their needs are reflected in Government policy. That is the only way to counter the inevitable drift of manufacturing jobs and the inevitable attraction of lower production costs outwith the UK: replacing those lost jobs by creating more local jobs and encouraging local enterprise through less regulation, more simplified tax processes and a reduction in the administrative costs for small businesses.
As a member of the European Standing Committee that considers issues such as gold-plating, I am aware that the Government are now taking steps to deal with it. Areas such as my own are now beginning to see some benefit from policies previously put in place by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, a trend evidenced over the past three to four years by increased small business start-ups. I hope that the Budget will provide a boost for further business start-ups in services, leisure, manufacturing and science-related sectors.
It is in that last cause, and the creation of a knowledge-based economy, that I am glad wholly to support the Chancellor and the Government in their quest to make the UK a world-leading location for the next wave of research and development. Although I welcome the further designation of Bristol, Nottingham and Birmingham to join Newcastle, Manchester and York as science cities, I wish to make the point strongly that Dundeealthough it falls within the remit of the Scottish Executivecertainly deserves to be added to that list. Dundee has two vibrant and innovative universities and a student population of 20,000, with more students arriving every year. The importance of higher education and science is clearly evident, both within the city's boundaries and further afield.
Some may mock the Government's emphasis on those sunrise activities but, in a city the size of Dundee, the real impact made by our academic universities and their activities on our country must not be undervalued. I am happy to acknowledge the DTI's role in promoting research and development in Scotland, and at Dundee university. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State
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mentioned Dundee university in her opening speech, when she spoke about the three universities in the UK that lead the world in the promotion of the medical biosciences and the life sciences.
In the past year, Dundee has been visited by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, when he was Secretary of State for Education and Skills. His remit in the city was not big and he does not make many visits north of the border, but he was in Dundee to open a new Wellcome Trust research facility. Only last week, Lord Sainsbury, the Science Minister, opened a new award-winning space research facility at Dundee university. The work being done at Dundee university is linked to an impressive computer games technology programme at the city's other university, Abertay university. The combined efforts of the two institutions enable me to declare that Dundee is one of the UK's premier science cities.
As an undergraduate, I visited the places where the industrial revolution began, and most of them are located in the English midlands. I regularly visit Dundee and Abertay universities, and I can report that the same vibrancy is evident in the new starts being made and building programmes undertaken. We are entering a new industrial revolution, in which the pursuit of advanced scientific research will take us on to an even more elevated plane, with an increased level of production and prosperity arising from an economy that is based on knowledge and science. I want to pay tribute to the principals of Dundee's two universities, Sir Alan Langlands and Professor Bernard King. They have done a great deal to improve Dundee's economic status by promoting research, bringing in new students, and changing the city's outlook.
This Budget will promote Dundee's economic improvement. It is not yet a designated science city, but I welcome the announcement that three more such cities will be created, to add to the three that already exist. However, it is not enough to have six science cities, or even 60. Six hundred such cities might be closer to the target that we should set. I believe that every UK city will need to be a science city if we are to cope with the global competition that is undoubtedly coming our way, as the Budget made clear.
The Budget embodies the Government's ideal on these matters, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is to be commended for the forceful way that he supports that ideal. In his biography of Gladstone, the late Lord Jenkins wrotein a chapter entitled "The Chancellor Who Made the Job"that Gladstone took four and three quarter hours to deliver his first Budget speech, which dealt with a total of £52 million and occupied 72 columns in Hansard. Last week, in his usual prudent way, today's Chancellor spoke for just under 50 minutes. His speech occupied only 13 columns in Hansard, but the growth in public expenditure in the 150 years since the grand old man made his first Budget speech means that my right hon. Friend's Budget deals with something like £590 billion. The Budget was delivered in a prudent manner that gave clear evidence of the intent to deliver.
Of previous Chancellors who are rated among the all-time greatsand I do not include the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), who is not present just nowGladstone, Pitt the Younger and Lloyd George went on to become First Lord of the
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Treasury. I am sure that the present incumbent will emulate those distinguished predecessors some day. Until then, he and the Government deserve the gratitude of this House and the country for keeping us on a stable and even economic path.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has rejected boom and bust in favour of growing prosperity, and has created a long awaited era of social justice in this country. His commitment to combating poverty on a global scale puts many, if not all, of our neighbours to shame. Britain and Scotland are going forwards, not backwards.
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