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Mr. John Grogan (Selby) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), who spoke with great clarity, great confidence, generosity and poise. As chairman of the all-party parliamentary beer group, I commend her on her choice of election campaign headquartersabove a pub. I hope that, in honour of her headquarters, she will join our group and maintain its status as the largest all-party parliamentary group.
I am happy to be here, Mr. Deputy Speaker, having defended Labour's 15th most marginal seat. I noted the exit polls and departed for the count. It tends to be a slow count in Selby, so I arrived at 3 am without any great expectations. When I was declared victor at 7.10 am, I had to borrow a bottle of champagne from my opponent for the obligatory local newspaper photos.
We have heard a lot today about hugging in the streets in London, but that certainly does not happen in Selby, where people take these things in their stride. I just had time for a bacon sandwich and went into my office. My first call went something like this: "Did you win, then?"; "Yes, actually, I did"; "Well, what about my housing benefit?". That brings one down to earth, but it is with great pride that I am in my place on these Benches for the third time, supporting a third-term Labour Government.
I sometimes look back on some of the people who inspired me to get involved in Labour parties, and, in the 1970s and '80s, they included my late father. At that time, it would have been difficult to believe that a third-term Labour Government could be in place now with ambitions to end child poverty; ambitions to lead the world in debates on development, trade, the environment and climate change; ambitions to replace
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primary and secondary schools with new builds over the next decade; ambitions to provide 15 hours of free nursery care for all three and four-year-olds and then to increase it to 20 hours; and ambitions to bring waiting times down to 18 weeks from GP referrals. It is truly a great programme to support.
Ministers remind us of the importance of the manifesto. Speaking as a top-up fee rebel in the last Parliament, I certainly think that the manifesto is an extremely important document. I have read it three or four times and Ministers will be pleased to know that I see plenty of scope for debate about some of the detail. I would like to touch on a couple of aspects of the detail on education and health.
First, I want to deal with the proposed partial smoking ban. As chairman of the all-party parliamentary beer group, I believe that the hospitality industry should now press for a total ban. I agree to some extent with the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley)that we should have either a voluntary system or a total ban. I fear that the market could be become distorted by the scheme that the Government are proposing at the moment. There is a danger of encouraging drinking dens in the old style. I believe that it is sensible to encourage pubs to serve food. Yesterday, the British Beer and Pub Association produced a code of practice.
If our concern is for the staff, we should really be pressing for a total ban. Some amendments may well be proposed to test opinion on that issue. If I were speaking for the industry, I would stress that clarity and certainty are required above all. From the pub company's point of view, it would be better to argue for a transitional period towards a total ban and perhaps additional rate relief for pubs on the margin rather than go down the present rather uncertain route.
As to hospitals and choice, my constituency exemplifies the rich diversity of NHS provision. We are looking forward to three new hospitals. The first is a new cottage hospital on the Selby war memorial site. The second is a fast-track treatment centre, involving the private sector, on the former Clifton hospital site in York. The third is a new acute hospital, or series of hospitals, in mid-Yorkshire at Pinderfields and Pontefract. I support the agenda of choice in the NHS. It will be marvellous when people in Selby can choose and book through their GPs
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. Conversations are breaking out among hon. Members, and I am having some difficulty hearing the hon. Gentleman addressing the House. Perhaps the House will do him the courtesy of listening.
There is merit in the new choose-and-book system, but I am not so sure about the targets being set, such as the one for 15 per cent. private-sector provision. The York hospital trust is interpreting that in an interesting way. The treatment centre at the York hospital site is being built in partnership with Capio, and will be staffed entirely by doctors on secondment from the NHS. In phase two of the development, the trust wants to build, with the help of a private sector provider, as many as four wards for elective surgery on the York hospital site, but again it wants to second doctors from the NHS rather than bring them in from developing
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nations. The private sector providers think that that will provide greater continuity, and it will be interesting to see how Ministers react to the proposals.
In the run-up to the next general election, if we do not manage choice properly, there will be the danger that some hospitals will be under severe pressure. In mid-Yorkshire, for example, the plans for a private finance initiative new build at Pontefract and Pinderfields are delicately balanced. They could be unbalanced if the private sector has to provide 15 per cent.
I also support the new dental school proposed for York, but I want to move on to education in the minutes that remain to me. When, at 7.10 in the morning, I made a rather bleary-eyed acceptance speech in response to my unexpected election victory, I stressed that, in this Government's third term, I wanted the schools in the poorest areas of Selby to achieve as much as those in the more affluent areas. The signs are already very good.
For example, in a school in the Fairburn with Brotherton ward of my constituency, only 52 per cent. of 11-year-olds achieved level 4 or above in English and maths in 1997. The total is now 82 per cent. That is above the national average, and it stems from the tremendous leadership shown by the head, John Evans. The success is also down to extra resourcesthe school is a new buildingand it shows what can be achieved. Other programmes, such as Sure Start, have proved tremendously successful.
I am more or less an observer of the city academy debate, as we are not going to get one in Selby. I have heard hon. Members supporting the establishment of city academies in other locations, where they have been agreed with local authorities and local residents, and I am sure that, in those circumstances, they are a good thing. However, the Labour manifesto makes no mention of removing the power of local authorities or communities to say no to such academies, if that is what they choose to do.
I am pleased that the Queen's Speech contains no proposals to remove the power of local authorities to resist city academies. Perhaps that is a victory for the Secretary of State over Lord Adonis. New schools and new investment must be welcomed, but do we really need to follow the Government's model, under which all power is given to a person who may donate only £2 million out of the £30 million needed to build a school? One person who successfully resisted a city academy in Waltham Forest said:
The principle involved is not especially modernising, and does not offer much in the way of accountability. Ministers should proceed very cautiously when it comes to city academies: they should abide by the spirit of the manifesto, but not go beyond it. That is the big challenge for the two Secretaries of State on the Front Bench today. They must get right the balance between the public sector ethos and the proper use of market forces in both education and health. If they can do that, they will be heroines of the Labour movement.
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We have been promised that, at some stage in this Parliament, there will be an orderly transition between Prime Ministers. It will be a test of Cabinet Government to ensure that there is a smooth transition of policies on health and education when that change takes place. I am sure that both Secretaries of State are well up to the task. I want our Chancellor and Prime Minister to be as close, in the next two or three years, as they were when they ate ice creams together during the general election campaign.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan). Obviously, in many ways, I would rather he were not here, but he always speaks with great courage and independence. I noted what he said about opposing top-up fees and tuition fees, and he will be pleased to know that the Welsh Assembly today voted against top-up fees. He is not alone andone never knowsthe Opposition might give him another chance to vote on the issue before this Parliament is out.
We have had an excellent debate and I am delighted to respond to it on behalf of the Opposition. We have heard a remarkable set of maiden speeches from people who are genuinely passionate about the areas that they represent including, most recently, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), who gave a very good speech.
I agree with the Prime Minister about one thingthere is no more important issue for our country than education. It is not just that we desperately need to raise standards and release the potential of our young people. Education lies at the heart of the challenges we facethe skills problem, the crime problem, the drugs problem and the frustration of unfulfilling lives problem. At the root of all those problems, much of the solution lies in education.
I say to the Secretary of State that huge common ground exists on this issue between the parties. Everybody knows that we must move away from the idea that one size fits all in state education. The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), in a great maiden speech, spoke in favour of academies and she was right. Everyone knows that we have to give schools freedom to make more decisions about their culture and their spending. Everybody knows that we have to break down the Berlin wall between state education and independent education. We all know that we must end the snobbery about vocational education, and that means investing in it, so that young people do not switch off from learning at 14 and 15. We all know that choice and involvement of parents should be encouraged.
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