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Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): I am delighted to have the pleasure of following the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), who has given the House a very polished performance, if I may so describe her maiden speech. It was fluent and knowledgeable about her constituency, and there was an element of passion as well. On behalf of everybody else here, I can assure her that she will not need to worry too much about weight watchers, because she will be run ragged in her new post, as her constituents will soon find out her e-mail address; she will then not have time to go weight watchers, and she will be running around the streets of Hackney in any case.
The hon. Lady took great pride in the fact that she and her hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), as two ladies representing the borough of Hackney, represent the only borough represented only by women. It is clear on the Labour Benches that the Labour party is revelling in the idea that there are many women Members on that side of the House, but I remind the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch that the first woman Prime Minister came from the Conservative party, and that it was she who rescued this country from oblivion. I can assure her that the ladies in this party have played an important part in the life of this country as well as of our party.
I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Wallace) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning)
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have been able to make contributions, which I have much enjoyed. They both bring a military flavour to the House. As one who is involved in defence activities on behalf of my party, I am delighted to welcome them to the fold.
I want to raise the serious plight of the primary care trust that serves my constituency and two other issues, although I recognise that I am out of place as an old lag in a field of maiden speeches. The Gracious Speech refers to the Government's intention to
which implies that health services are already improving. My constituency is served by Blackwater Valley and Hart PCT, which suffered a £2.6 million deficit last year, even after it implemented a £3.8 million cost reduction programme, and is set to incur a further £8 million deficit this year.
The Government claim to have provided a very generous settlement, but half of the £13.8 million increase will go on the increased cost of the acute hospital tariff, over which the PCT has zero control. That money will not buy a single additional operation. The rest of the money will be swallowed by other costs such as the unfunded part of the new GP contracts, revised hours for junior doctors, continuing care, prescriptions and so on.
"The current situation is the worst I have experienced in 23 years of working in the NHS. The financial pressures for 200506 are so serious that unless significant action is taken money will have to be taken out of the system and services cut or reduced . . . The PCTs are looking at reducing the whole work force, including managers, by 5 per cent. The result is that there will be no additional doctors or nurses appointed in Hampshire, and natural wastage means we will lose a few more."
My constituents are suffering as a result of the biased funding formula, which discriminates heavily against the south-east. Blackwater Valley and Hart PCT attracts 22 per cent. less funding than the national average, yet our problems are similar to those in the rest of the country, and we face considerably higher local costs. It was no mean feat to meet the targets on 78 per cent. of the national average allocation and with only £2.6 million overspend, but to fund my constituents on that false basis in perpetuity is simply unacceptable. The Department of Health now proposes to deduct any overspend in the current year from next year's allocation, which is an extraordinarily vindictive arrangement, the ultimate logic of which is that the PCT will end up paying the Department.
The second issue that I want to raise has a bearing on both health and education. The Prime Minister has suddenly discovered that respect is a commodity in short supply in this countrya message which was doubtless personally reinforced by his recent encounter with the electorate. The biggest problem facing Britain today is the breakdown in family life. It is hardly surprising that so many young people have so little respect for other people or property when they have no resident father
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and when the Government pump out an incessant message about knowing your rights and place so little emphasis on accepting responsibility.
My point is graphically illustrated by this article, "Sisters pregnant at 12, 14 and 16. So what does their mother do? She blames the school", which appeared in The Daily Telegraph yesterdayif hon. Members have not read it, I urge them to do so. Collectively, those children receive benefits of £31,000 a year. The mother of the three girls was astonished that her daughters had become pregnant so young, stating:
According to an excellent and well-researched report, "Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family", produced by Civitas in 2002, children living without their biological fathers are more likely to have emotional problems and to get into trouble at school, and they face a higher risk of experiencing health problems. That message may be unpalatableunlike hon. Members who are making their maiden speeches, I do not have to be uncontroversialeven to the so-called modernising tendency in my party, but the message is crystal clear. We owe it to today's young people to rescue them from growing up in an environment that is devoid of respect. We need to frame a benefits system that rewards those who do the right thing instead of, as now, rewarding the feckless, and we need to reinforce the message that marriage is the surest foundation for raising children.
My third point relates to my principal passion outside politics, which is aviating. I have held a pilot's licence since I was 17, and I am very proud to represent the birthplace of British aviation, Farnborough. Sadly, the Gracious Speech does not refer to any form of aviation. On 16 October 2008, which is within the probable lifetime of this Parliament, we shall celebrate the centenary of Samuel Cody's first sustained flight from Laffan's plain, Farnborough. Britain remains to this day a world leader in aerospace, and the movers and shakers in that business were invariably captivated from their earliest years by the magic of flight.
Today, general aviation faces a range of threats. As early-day motion 141 and the letter in yesterday's The Daily Telegraph, which was signed by such legendary figures as Neville Duke and Raymond Baxter, testify, the wonderfully evocative vintage aircraft "Sally B", the B-17 immortalised in the film "Memphis Belle", is grounded thanks to new EU regulations, which demand that it be insured as if it were a passenger-carrying Boeing 737. How ironic that an aircraft that contributed to the liberation of Europe should be taken out of the sky by European bureaucrats. I hope that the EU will see the error of its ways and enable the B-17 to participate in the combined 60th anniversary VE-day/VJ-day celebrations on 10 July.
: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that example is typical of the kind of stresses faced by general aviation in the United Kingdom? This country should be a centre of global excellence for training tomorrow's pilots, but we face some serious legal
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restrictions. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government should listen to existing aviators and try to change that dangerous and negative trend?
Mr. Howarth: The hon. Gentleman is right. We are making common cause because, as he has said, the Civil Aviation Authority, otherwise known as the "Campaign Against Aviation", is about to publish a new policy on charging for its inspection and licensing functions, the effect of which threatens to increase general aviation's costs by up to 170 per cent. I understand that British Airways and Monarch Airlines are driving that policy, because they want to see transparency of charging by the CAA. Today, I will do little more than serve notice that I intend to mount a vigorous challenge to that attempt to inflict severe damage on general aviation. I am delighted to be joined by my fellow aviator of 17 years' standing, my aviating friend, the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), and we hope that Government Members will join us.
The CAA is due to publish its proposals on 10 June, but we expect the victims to include those who organise air shows, because members of the Air Display Association Europe, of which I have the privilege of being president, could be put out of business by the vastly increased costs. British Airways and other airlines draw some 70 per cent. of their aircrew from the pool of those who have learned to fly by paying their own way or obtaining sponsorship from the Air League or the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators.
The airlines are apparently seeking to transfer about £1.5 million of CAA costs to general aviation, which is less than British Airways paid a few years ago to have absurd, politically correct graffiti, over which my noble Friend Baroness Thatcher put her handkerchief, painted on the tail fins of its aircraft. It is simply galling that an organisation which has just reported annual profits of £540 million is intent upon inflicting such damage on general and sporting aviation. Wethis includes me, and the hon. Member for Montgomeryshirepay about £5 million in VAT on the fuel that we consume as private aviators. British Airways pays no VAT on fuel or tickets, so we more than pay our wayI hope that Mr. Rod Eddington notes that point before he returns to Australia.
The issue is not confined to those of us who engage in recreational and sporting aviation. Air displays are the nation's second largest outdoor spectator sport, attracting 6.5 million people according to the 2002 figures. I hope that hon. Members will take the time to visit their local airfields, to attend an air display, to sign early-day motion 141 and to support me, the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire and some clandestine operators on the Government Benches in our attempt to resolve the matter.
The Queen's Speech is a mixture of platitudes laced with inaccuracies, wishful thinking and damaging proposals. I hope that it will be challenged by a Parliament that has been reinforced with so many able new Opposition Members who are prepared to hold the Government to account over the next five years.
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