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What has been done to improve the viability of education as an export? The basic argument is the same: investment in primary schools is what matters. In my constituency, we have two new primary schools, one in Westerhope and one in Gosforth. They are excellent examples of the best facilities from which young people can benefit. Investment in secondary schools will also show returns. As it happens, I do not agree with some of the structural arguments that the Government have put forward, but I agree on the emphasis on putting resources into secondary schools. The Chancellor said in his Budget speech that every school in the country should aim to have the same achievements, whether in the public or private sector. That can help to drive a great improvement in our people's ability to benefit from education throughout the community. Items in the Budget such as waiving further education fees for A-level students up to 25 years old are also an important development.
The second area in which there is scope for new opportunity is medical exports. As a nation, we are a world leader in many medical technologies and their application. We should be not only providing more opportunities for people to be treated in Britain, but driving the infrastructure that supports our health service. Biotechnology is a very important science in Newcastle. The University of Newcastle is a world leader in stem cell researchan area in which I believe many future medical advances will be based, dealing with a host of problems. There should be more investment in such research.
Some people say, "It is all very well having investment in stem cell research, including on academics, but what about everyone else?" There are opportunities for others. If we develop a personal DNA, as a lot of scientists and medical people suggest we should
Mr. Henderson: We have all got one, but if we have cell resources based on the DNA, there will be a need for cell banks. I believe that such an industry can provide a lot of employment for areas such as mine in north-east England. It will not provide it for ever, because others in the world will soon be able to do the same thing, but it gives us the lead on which we can base future developments. As I said to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, the Bill, and clause 28 in particular, help with many research, development and environmental issues, including in relation to the matters I have just mentioned. Clause 28 is a very important clause.
My final point concerns energy. I am a firm believer in a balanced energy policy and do not believe that one should have ideological views about the rights or wrongs of a particular energy sourceit is sensible to have practical views about such matters, but it is not sensible to take an ideological view. We must ensure that we have security of supply and sufficient supply, which is the first challenge on energy policy. As other hon. Members have rightly said, the second challenge is controlling emissions. The third challenge concerns export capacity: some might say that we exported coal 150 years ago and ask what we can export now, but there
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are things that we can export, and I believe that the possibilities offered by new technologies should be emphasised.
Mr. McFall: My hon. Friend knows that the advent of China and India on the world stage means that carbon emissions will increase enormously. In his speech in New Zealand, the Prime Minister said that if Australia were to shut down for the next 10 months, its contribution to world emissions would be overtaken by new emissions from China. This country has the chance to export clean coal technology to China. If we get our act together, we can help ourselves, China and global emissions.
Mr. Henderson: In the north-east of England, we used to say that coal was king, but its crown is becoming tarnished. New energy technologies can be king in future, and they can provide the basis for exports. Specifically, there should be investment in geothermal technology, which I will not dwell on because I am sure hon. Members have other things to consider. Geothermal technology can enable huge savings in energy provision both at the micro level, which involves individual factories and even individual houses, and at a macro level, where power stations can be based on geothermal technology. Geothermal technology is not a new technology, but it is a developing technology, and we have got to do more on it.
Fuel cell technology has many applications from providing general electricity for general purposes to providing electricity specifically to power cars. There needs to be increased investment in the development of fuel technologiesI am not saying that measures have not been taken, but I am encouraging the Government to do more. The regional development agency in the north-east of England is already working on some of those projects, but it needs to be given a little bit more support to enable it to do more. Clause 28 could be used to provide such assistance, and £20 million for the enterprise capital fund, which addresses environmental issues, is a step, albeit a small step, in the right direction.
The venture capital proposals in clause 91 and schedule 10 also address those issues. Innovation does not happen without invention, and invention does not happen without education. The programme in the Budget to increase the number of science teachers by 3,000 and the relevant provision in the Bill are welcome, as is the funding of after-school science clubs. I hope that the after-school science clubs scheme will involve fun as well as learning, which will make it more successful, although I am sure that that will be the case given the enterprise displayed by our educational people.
As a nation, we need to concentrate on our economic strengths and make the necessary investments to enable us to meet our objectives in the future. The same is true for our region in the north-east, where we must concentrate on our strengths, of which clean coal technology is one. We must give organisations such as the RDAs and the universities more resources and support for the enterprising developments on which they are focusing, because we need to make sure that our system allows innovation to take place wherever new technology emerges.
This Finance Bill should get wide support from the House. It further extends the background against which our economic strength is based, and by using that
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economic strength we can meet our welfare and investment objectives. In the context of what I have said, I believe that the Bill can help the development and application of science, which is crucial to the future of our economic prosperity. We have invested through the Budget, and the Bill makes the necessary provisions for that to take place. We should ensure that we continue to invest in the years ahead.
This Budget is proposed by a Government who tell us that they are now enamoured of the idea of deregulation. Three cheers for that. We are grossly over-regulated throughout this country and economy, and it will be welcome indeed if the Government move on from fine words and good speeches to action. Unfortunately, we see a Finance Bill running to 475 pages, with 181 clauses and 26 schedules. Deregulation seems not to have figured prominently in its drafting. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members who are involved in the Committee stage may get to grips with some of the complexity and strike a blow for freedom and simplicity.
I shall give a little flavour of the Bill. If it is enacted in this form, pity the poor people who will try to make sense of their own pension provision. We see in paragraph 6 of schedule 21, in suggested new section 185B, what they have to do if they have thought about direct property investment for their pension fund. It tells us:
DMV 10 x DTP DY
Things are far more difficult if one dares to take on a leasehold propertybut the time and patience of the House probably do not permit me to go into the details. It is surely time the Government did better than this. They should take pity on people who are trying to save for their retirement in very difficult circumstances and give them something that they can understand. Is it reasonable to expect a free people to have to wade through that degree of complication, and can we expect them to do so without having to spend a lot of their hard-earned money on accountancy and legal advice to make any kind of sense of it?
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I fear that the Government are in denial on the issue of productivity. Their own figures suggest that if one defines the cycle in a certain way and claims that the public sector figures are all wrong, productivity is doing a bit better than it was in the previous economic cycle. No reputable outside commentator or independent analyst believes that that is true. The latest figures show that in the past couple of years productivity performance has slowed down, not risen. Figures also showeduntil the Government stopped compiling themthat the main problem with productivity stalling rests in the public sector: the area where the Government have most control and influence, and where they have been most generous.
The Government should be extremely alarmed about the decline in productivity in sizeable parts of the public sector and the slowing of the rate of growth in productivity across the public sector as a whole, on the old definition and the old figures. I am sure that they would love to come up with magic numbers that included a new quality variable that somehow miraculously implied that productivity had been going up after all. However, no one looking at the current crisis in the health service, with sackings, redundancies, huge deficits and great problems, can believe that productivity is advancing rapidly in that service. If it were, it would be a miracle.
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