|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This provision was debated yesterday in Committee. If nobody in that Committee objected to it then, why are some Members now objecting to it on the Floor of the House? [Interruption.]
Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): It is my privilege to present the petition of Mr. Johnson, my constituent from Barton-on-sea, consisting of 210 signatures, on behalf of the Isitfair council tax campaign. The residents of Barton-on-sea are understandably incensed at the exponential increase in council tax over recent years that has taken no cognisance of their ability to pay.
The Petitioners request that this Honourable House do vote to replace the council tax with a fair and equitable tax that, without recourse to any supplementary benefit, takes into account ability to pay from disposable income. Such tax to be based on a system that is free from any geographically or politically motivated discrimination, and that clearly identifies the fiscal and managerial responsibilities of all involved parties.
Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): I rise to present a public petition on behalf of my constituent Mr. Tony Constable, who is a doughty campaigner on behalf of the Colchester pensioners action group, and who in January of this year presented a petition on the council tax to the Committee on Petitions at the European Parliament in Brussels. His latest attempt on behalf of senior citizens consisted of spending one hour outside the Co-op store in Colchester last week, and he secured signatures at the rate of one every 30 seconds. The petition states:
Declares that the year on year, inflation-busting increases in Council Tax are causing hardship to many and take no account of ability to pay; further that the proposed property revaluation and re-banding exercise will make an already flawed system even worse.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons votes to replace Council Tax with a fair and equitable tax that, without recourse to any supplementary benefit, takes into account ability to pay from disposable income. Such tax to be based on a system that is free from any geographical or politically motivated discrimination, and that clearly identifies the fiscal and managerial responsibilities of all involved parties.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): I believe that this is an important debate about procurement and about its effects if we do not get it right. I shall touch on many issues, but I start with Royal Ordnance, which is based all over the country, though I am particularly concerned with the Chorley site. Royal Ordnance at Chorley still employs 200 people, so it is an important employer. It produces initiators. It is the only site within the BAE Systems umbrella that can produce initiators, which means that security of supply would be put at risk if the Chorley site were closed.
I am very concerned that BAE Systems and Royal Ordnance seem to think that there will be an alternative. We know that they have shopped around in Singapore and sought to find out who could supply initiators if they were not produced at Chorley. I assure everyone that we should not put at risk our supply to the armed forces. It is a major risk, particularly in times of crisis and when we are committed all over the world. The one thing that the troops require is ammunition that can be trusted. Our ammunition can be trusted because it is produced thoroughly by RO from start to finish. We should not allow BAE or RO to weasel their way out of commitment to the Chorley site.
Yes, there has been a problem with production at the Chorley site and, tragically, someone lost their life on that facility. I would not like to think that someone had lost their life in vain. BAE must look at the line again, put in the necessary investment and ensure that it is safe. I do not want it to take the easy option of closing the facility down. We should put the investment in and ensure that the commitment signed with the Government to ensure the supply of ammunition continues. That means using Chorley. We should not let BAE off the hook. BAE would be the first to complain to MPs if the Government were to renege on an order. So when it is the other way round, we should not let BAE renege on its agreement regarding Royal Ordnance.
Aerospace is another important subject. Much is said and made of the joint strike fighter, but there is a big worry about it. We know that the Americans are still holding back and the international traffic in arms regulations waiver is still in place. The Americans are still not fully committed to letting the technology come through to us. The other problem is that we need to see final assembly of the jets that we are to order and we need to secure those jobs. Some of the highest skills in the country are based in Lancashire. All that could be put at risk because we cannot get the agreement of the Americans. Well, if there is a special relationship out there, it is time that the Prime Minister used it. We should be securing those jobs in Lancashire by getting what we need.
Another company called CSC Computer Sciences employs many people in Chorley, delivering high-tech services for BAE Systems. There is talk about a new company, Alfred McAlpine Business Systems, and I am worried. A long-established link between BAE and CSC has delivered the systems that ensure that nuclear
18 Oct 2005 : Column 817
submarines sail safely. All that could be put at risk and we must think about using untried and untested companies that do not have a background in what we are asking for.
John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan) (Lab): I am listening with great interest to the procurement issues that my hon. Friend raises, all of which relate to that excellent company BAE Systems. Does he share my concern that there is a risk that that company may be over-committing itself to work, especially in debt support of fast jetsattack jets in particularin this country, and that that could impact on some of the other businesses to which he refers?
Mr. Hoyle: Quite rightly my hon. Friend is standing up for the workers at St. Athan, where there is a highly skilled work force and a great background in servicing jets. The MOD must ensure that work goes to that factory as well and that we do not lose this country's skills.
There is a worry about Alfred McAlpine Business Systems and about the software, and we must not allow anybody to tender for work without a proven track record. That brings me to the subject of the Army uniforms with which the MOD decided they wanted to be supplied.
A company called Cooneen, Watts and Stone tendered for the contract, and a so-called company in Belgium was meant to be supplying. However, behind all the smoke and mirrors was a state-owned and, no doubt, subsidised factory in China. We have ended up sending work from this country to China, which has meant jobs being lost in Lancashire. A factory in the constituency of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), has closed; that is how bad it has got.
The Prime Minister was questioned on this matter. I understand that he is briefed, that he does not know everything and that he answers on the basis of what he is told. He was told, "Do not worry, this will not only protect jobs in Northern Ireland but increase them." That is not the case; there are fewer jobs now than before the company got the contract. That was another red herring and we were all hoodwinked once more.
I am worried about my constituents at the Pincroft factory in Adlington, which has a great reputation for bleaching and dyeing and producing these uniforms, which they have done for many years. The camouflage is good enough to be used around the world, but it is not good enough for here. As usual, we have penny-wise and pound-foolish policies. It is meant to be about saving money, but it is not.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|