Previous SectionIndexHome Page

James Brokenshire: On skills, I acknowledge the point that the hon. Gentleman is making about migration, but it is essential that there is the necessary investment in training and skills to ensure that that is not another reason for the social and community tensions that he describes.

Jon Cruddas: I agree. If we want to confront these difficult issues and take the heat out of the situation that is producing the phenomenon of a durable far right political project in east London and beyond— the phenomenon is transportable to other areas of the country that were traditional working class communities suffering from ongoing deindustrialisation over decades—we must examine how we use often illegal migrant labour and the relationship with skills formation across the community. Issues of race, asylum and immigration should be dealt with not in an increasingly muscular bidding war about the number of migrants, but through an economic discussion of the future demand for labour, how that can be anticipated and how much foreign labour needs to be sucked in. In turn, the tacit use of illegal migrant workers should not occur. Instead, we should build from a departure point of rights for all workers, rather than placing restraints on numbers. The debate about race, immigration, asylum and labour markets should be reconfigured from the departure point of the rights of the individual worker.

I refer hon. Members to a recent Institute of Employment Rights book, "Labour Migration and Employment Rights", which does public policy making in this country a great service by taking on such difficult political terrain and offering initiatives to reconfigure the debate and take out the toxic element of race.

I am a great supporter of the Thames Gateway agenda. We always seem to debate projected movements of people—for example, 850,000 people in 2015. We rule off the baseline of public policy making on the question of illegal migrants—700,000 to 800,000 people could gravitate to this city's poorest areas—in a fairly static way, rather than seeing public policy making alongside the dynamic at work in London, which is a relentless, vibrant world city.We tend to see the Thames Gateway as a static future model of population movement, based on the assumption that a city such as Leeds will move down into east London at some point in the future. The movement is already under way and the engine is already driving the process. Unfortunately, the engine consists of those people who are often most excluded in terms of public policy making, and they are often invisible in our debates. However, they are not invisible to people in my community, who regard them as central to their own material circumstances.

As ever, I welcome the debate, which is complicated by the different public policy issues. I am deeply concerned that rather than discussing sustainable local communities, we are trying to navigate difficult terrain. For example, the BNP has averaged 35 per cent. in the
20 Oct 2005 : Column 1043
five most recent council elections in my borough. That is not a one-off protest; that is a profound and durable form of far right political activity.

We got off lightly at the general election. In the constituency next to mine, Barking, the BNP got only 16.9 per cent., but one week before polling day we thought that it would get more than 25 per cent. Indeed, BNP research suggested returns in five wards in that constituency of between 48 and 52 per cent. I know that the Government are aware that that is a massive issue in terms of community cohesion, and their ideas on how to grapple with it are creative, not least because ODPM Ministers know a lot about east London— the Under-Secretary has a long history of working in the area, and the two PPSs, my hon. Friends the Members for Gillingham (Paul Clark) and for Ipswich (Chris Mole), are also knowledgeable. I urge them to be more creative about the question of race, migration and numbers, and about resource allocation to those communities that are arguably most in need of a Labour Government.

3.9 pm

Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): I apologise to the House for not being present throughout our proceedings; I have been attending Baroness Blatch's memorial service and invigilating the extraordinarily exciting Conservative party leadership contest.

My interest in the debate is real. I am a relatively poor Conservative Member: I own only two properties—one in the Isle of Dogs and one in Southend, West.

Andrew Mackinlay: The hon. Gentleman is not Chairman of a Committee, is he?

Mr. Amess: The hon. Gentleman tempts me, but I shall not comment on his sedentary intervention.

I am sure that the Under-Secretary will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that one of my properties is at the start of the Thames Gateway and the other is at the end. But my interest in the area goes much further. I was born in Plaistow, many of my relatives still live in Newham, and my heart belongs to London.

One of the greatest achievements of the Conservative Government was the regeneration of the east end of London in the '80s and '90s. I get a tremendous buzz from what has been achieved in docklands. It is remarkable and exciting, and it was a tremendous achievement. I recall as if it were yesterday going with a group of then colleagues to a barren warehouse that was described as being where London City airport would be. I thought that such an engineering feat was impossible and wondered, "My goodness, how are the local residents going to put up with aeroplanes landing and taking off in the middle of the east end?" But it happened, and it has been a tremendous success. As I said to the noble Baroness last week at her 80th birthday party, it was certainly one of her finest achievements.

I feel very uncomfortable with much of the modern language that we use. I hate the jargon, and I have cringed a little at what I have already heard. I do not know who thought up the expression, "Thames
20 Oct 2005 : Column 1044
Gateway", but I do not like it. The River Thames is beautiful. When I do my tours round the House of Commons, I say that it is cleaner than the Seine and the Rhine, and it would not be hard to be cleaner than the Nile. It is a very beautiful river and we should be proud of it.

In my constituency, unlike those of any number of my colleagues, housing is not an issue, because there is no room to build. The only way in which one could build new houses in Southend, West would be by knocking down an old property and replacing it. In some parts of Essex, though, if one is not walking quickly one will be built on—either that or someone will stick a mobile phone mast on one's head. In many respects, there is an obsession with building in Essex. I have huge sympathy with many of my colleagues who are worried about the overdevelopment, as they see it, of their constituencies. When, many moons ago, I was Member of Parliament for Basildon, we had the London Development Corporation and the Commission for New Towns, and I saw at first hand how we benefited tremendously from those two organisations.

As the Minister knows, there is no such thing as a free lunch and no such thing as a free debate, and I am unashamedly participating in this debate to ask for his help. I am grateful for all the assistance that we have been given by Thames Gateway so far. Again, it seems only yesterday that Mary Spence came to see me at one of my surgeries when the vehicle was being set up and did not have a great deal of money or clout, and I listened carefully to what she said. I congratulate her and her staff on what they have achieved so far.

The Minister for Local Government has already been tremendously helpful to Southend, and I have every intention of persuading the Under-Secretary to join his colleague in being helpful.

I was thrilled that we won the bid for the Olympic games. My God, I wish I had been at the meal with Putin and Chirac. One could imagine their faces. I did not believe that we would get the games, but I am thrilled that we did. I agreed with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) said about the Olympic games in his magnificent speech. I am determined that Southend will be at their heart. As hon. Members might expect, I shall mention not only the cliff slippage but Southend pier later. The Olympic games provide a marvellous opportunity for local communities not only to get involved but to become motivated about sport and experience the lasting regeneration of their landscape.

Thames Gateway South Essex partnership—here I go into the jargon—pledged its commitment to support the 2012 Olympics in July 2005 and published its proposals to offer preparation camp facilities for the athletes in the run-up to the games. Southend is a unitary authority and we have already held some good meetings with the leader of Essex county council. I hope that Southend will be included in Essex's bid to host some of the sportswomen and sportsmen. There is already good access to Southend from London Southend and Stansted airports as well as two mainline rail links to Stansted and a proposed additional airport-rail link, which I shall discuss shortly.

I perceive the project as not only supporting the Olympians and Paralympians who will stay in Southend in 2012. I believe that the investment must be carefully
20 Oct 2005 : Column 1045
targeted so that it leaves an infrastructural legacy of sporting, leisure and transport facilities, from which future generations can benefit long after the closing ceremony of the games in 2012.

If the Under-Secretary has no time to reply, perhaps he will write to me, but Southend council is keen to learn from the Government whether additional funding of private finance initiative credits will be available to support the development of sporting and cultural facilities in the Gateway. We have our particular hobby horse in Southend—the replacement of Warriors swim centre, which once produced Anita Lonsborough. It is embarrassing because I have forgotten the name, but Southend had a famous diver—

Next Section IndexHome Page