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Ms Abbott: Does my right hon. Friend agree that one reason why so many of our traditional white working-class voters are turning to the British National party in protest is the perception—false, in many ways—that the Government have focused on the concerns of middle England to the exclusion of the material economic concerns of the core Labour vote?

Mr. Meacher: That is an important point. I am sure my hon. Friend would agree that the Government—and
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the Chancellor in particular—have improved the quality of life and the income of hard-working families, that there has been a substantial uplift, and that poverty has been reduced. That is certainly true, but my objection is that inequality has continued to increase because the gap between the poor—although they are fewer in number and they have a bit more—and the rich is still being increased by the enormous and soaring escalation of incomes at the top. Both problems need to be addressed. One reason why there has been a switch to the BNP is because working-class families feel that they are not getting enough, or a fair deal in society. Things have improved, but not enough.

Thirdly, there is, inevitably, a balance to be struck between protecting civil liberties and safeguarding the security of the state, which has been mentioned. However, since 9/11, that balance has been pulled in an uncomfortably authoritarian direction. Quite apart from the removal of the right to silence and restrictions on jury trials, the Government seem—I hope that I am wrong, but this is what is reported—to be returning to Algeria those acquitted after the Bourgass trial, including one person who had been granted asylum. They are almost certain to face torture, and may face death, which is reminiscent of the awful American practice of "rendition", I think it is called—or outsourcing torture.

In the case of the much-trumpeted ricin plot of January 2003, it now emerges that there was no ricin and no plot, only a convenient pretext to bang the anti-terrorist drum just before the Iraq war, and perhaps even to claim the need for ID cards. Above all, however, in the case of control orders, which the Government are obliged to reconsider, there is a much better way of reconciling individual rights with state security.

I propose that where terrorism, or at least acts preparatory to terrorism, are alleged, all the evidence relevant to the case should be made available to the suspect unless the judge is convinced—on the basis of advice from the security services or the Home Secretary, and on proper grounds of national security—that it cannot safely be made available. That compromise, for which, of course, there is already an effective precedent in the form of public interest immunity orders, would protect human rights and ought to be acceptable to the Home Office. I hope that the Government will reconsider that later in the year.

My fourth concern is how the so-called public services reform will be pursued. All too often that is a euphemism for more privatisation, deregulation and outsourcing. It is worrying that the first speech of the Secretary of State for Health emphasised strongly the transfer of 10 to 15 per cent. of operations to the private sector, when the consequences of that are so clear: it means skimming off the most lucrative procedures while leaving the more difficult and expensive cases to the national health service, and it means draining off doctors and resources from the NHS—not for a saving, which we could understand, but at greater cost.

That policy agenda is not—I repeat not—about choice when, in the case of housing policy, tenants who choose the fourth option, to stay with their own local authority, are denied that choice, and when, in the case of transport policy, the majority who want rail franchises to be transferred to the public sector are denied that choice.
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Lastly, we need to learn the real lesson of Iraq: we have become far too close to the US line. We need a foreign policy bottom line driven by our fundamental British interests and by our commitment to the United Nations, and not by US interests. As proof of that, we need an early statement from the Prime Minister that under no circumstances will we give support, even indirectly, to any military attack on Iran, whatever the Americans may do. I hope that all those points will be taken.

6.1 pm

Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con): As an ardent campaigner for decision making to remain in this House, I am delighted to address the House today. I must thank the retiring Member for Windsor for his continuous hard work over many years. It is thanks to him that the doors of the Edward VII hospital remain open; it is thanks to him that the doors of the Helena Day ward remain open. I must also thank him for his good work with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and its continued work in Belarus and Tibet.

I must also thank the members of the Windsor Conservative association, who selected and supported me more than 19 months ago. It really means something to me that they have stuck with me the whole way through the hard work of getting elected. Of course, I must thank the residents of Windsor for the warm welcome that I received on 35,000 doorsteps. I recognise that many of them will have broken with former allegiances to deliver the result that delivers me here today.

I would like to tell you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, about the wonderful constituency that I represent. It has leafy hills and dales; it has great parks and lakes. It is beautiful and attractive, as are the people. I recall one particular doorstep on which I was campaigning early one morning. I knocked on the door and a beautiful young lady answered. She seemed stunned to see me, and I was certainly stunned, but also delighted, to see her—thinking that I was her boyfriend, she had come to the door completely naked. I have lost my train of thought now.

We have some wonderful schools in the constituency. One near Slough, with which many Members will be familiar, is particularly notable. We also have wonderful historic buildings. With the award given to the Fat Duck a few weeks ago it is now accepted the world over that we have the finest dining in the entire world. We benefit from internationally renowned race courses, and we have a strong military presence, with the Household Cavalry and the Blues and Royals. We have one of the finest, grandest and most popular tourist attractions in the whole world—a symbol of our national historic heritage. I refer of course to Legoland. We also have one or two notable residents, of whom I am sure we are all aware.

We face some challenges, too. The character of our area, our community and our neighbourhoods is being ruined by insensitive high-density development. That is placing pressure on our roads, creating queues at our GPs' surgeries and causing stress to parents who cannot
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find a place for their children in the local schools. We have also had the blight of flooding in recent years. In areas such as Horton, Wraysbury, Old Windsor and Datchet, the risks caused by the inadequate measures on the Jubilee river still exist. In other parts of the constituency, the challenge and threat of increasing aircraft noise remain. We have a noisy neighbour in Heathrow, which not only provides employment but brings stresses and strains with the continued noise and pollution that is created. We have some challenges, and we must rise to meet them.

Like many Members, I come from a fairly ordinary background. When one comes from an ordinary background, one is determined to make something of oneself. I worked hard at school, I made it to grammar school and then on to university. I have worked hard in business for many years. I am delighted that today, the organisations that I helped to start provide incomes and livelihoods for about 300 people and their families. I will continue to work hard here in Parliament, to take action on the issues that matter to us all.

When I was being lovingly dragged up in south-east London, a thought struck me. My friends, my family and the people with whom I have worked over the years all seem to be happier when they are making decisions for themselves—when they have control of their own lives. One of the biggest causes of stress in Britain today is a feeling that one's own life is out of one's control. With my hon. Friends, I am determined that people should regain a sense of control over their lives. We have had a lot of talk today about civil liberties, and I am determined that we shall continue that push towards civil liberties, towards a country free from unnecessary interference from state and government.

Despite the sleep deprivation during the campaign and for the first couple of weeks here in Parliament, I am thrilled, delighted, excited and elated to be here, but I am also conscious of the onerous responsibility that we bear as Members. The House has my commitment that I will take action; I will not only campaign for the residents of Windsor but take action on the things that matter to us all. In the years to come, I want all of us to feel a sense of control over our lives, a sense of self-confidence in who we are and, as far as is possible in a civilised society, a sense of freedom to enjoy our lives in the way that we choose. Above all, I want all British citizens to rediscover a sense of pride in being British. I say without hesitation or hindrance that I am proud to be British. I am proud to play a small role in this debate, and I am proud that under your watchful eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will play a small role in the future of our great nation.

6.7 pm

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