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The Prime Minister: We are a trading nation and we benefit from our ability to trade with the rest of the world, and food imports and exports will always be part of what we do. I do not think that anybody believes that one country on its own, operating in a global economy, will produce all the kinds of food that it needs. We should get a trade agreement so that we
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can get food prices down and deal with the food shortages by encouraging production in other parts of the world. We must also look at the eco-fuel issue, which many people have raised as being a diversion from food production, but we are part of a global economy and we should accept that as a reality.

Q9. [207952] Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): When responding to my constituents, who rightly raise concerns about the rising cost of living, does the Prime Minister agree that I should remind them of not only the practical steps that the Government are taking to help people on low incomes with their fuel bills, but the fundamental strength of our economy, compared with the crisis that we faced 20 years ago? That strength has enabled cities such as Sheffield not only to regenerate its local economy but, most of all, to create in one city, in the past 10 years alone, 72,000 new jobs. That has happened through the policies of the Labour Government.

The Prime Minister: Even in the past year, under difficult economic circumstances, 500,000 new jobs have been created in this country. People will at some time have a choice between whether to go with the policies of the Leader of the Opposition, who was economic adviser to the Government who created 15 per cent. interest rates, 3 million unemployed, the biggest tax rises in history and, at the same time, negative equity, and a Labour Government who have got more people in work than ever.

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Points of Order

12.32 pm

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your guidance? Just after the Queen’s Speech, you made an announcement about the need for Members to abide by the parliamentary convention that they should not interfere in other Members’ constituencies. On 25 January, Lord Adonis came to my constituency and, on 1 February, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families also came. They both visited schools in my constituency. I was not made aware of the visits and I understand from leaflets that were put out in the constituency that they were there on the encouragement of Mr. Stephen Twigg, who wishes to unseat me at the next election.

Mr. Speaker: That is not a point of order. However, I have said on previous occasions, and I reiterate it now, that when Ministers intend to come to a constituency, they should write to the hon. Member concerned and show them the courtesy of letting them know that they are going to be in the constituency. Of course, they do not need to ask the permission of a Member of Parliament to come into the constituency, but they must notify them. That is the convention, which should be adhered to. I will not be drawn into the argument about motives.

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. What advice applies to the Prime Minister when he visits a constituency to hold a meeting? Should the Prime Minister also notify us of his visit?

Mr. Speaker: All Ministers of the Crown should do that.

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Bank Holiday (Contribution of Polish Citizens)

12.34 pm

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I beg to move,

When invasion came to Poland in 1939, there was terrible suffering by the Poles. On that first day, 1 September 1939, many Polish aircraft were destroyed on the ground, in the German forces’ dastardly attack. But those Polish pilots did not just give up; they came to this country to continue the struggle against fascism. Some 145 Polish pilots defended the skies during the battle of Britain. Polish 303 Fighter Squadron claimed the highest number of kills of any squadron during the second world war. In total, eight Polish fighter squadrons formed within the RAF claimed 629 axis aircraft destroyed by May 1945. Older citizens of this country remember those brave airmen and their gallantry, but it is difficult for people of my generation to remember their contribution. I hope that my Bill will remind them.

We must also remember that the breaking of the Enigma codes was critical to our victory in the second world war. Polish cryptographers played a leading role in the project at Bletchley Park, a fact not generally known. Later today, I shall donate a book to the Library on the role that Polish cryptographers played at Bletchley. According to the Foreign Office, 45 per cent. of all intelligence reports from continental Europe came from Polish informants. Many of those brave Poles were sent back to Poland by the British security forces to spy on the Germans and to bring valuable information back to Britain about armaments production and all the other things that the Germans were doing. Poles fought with the British in Monte Cassino, north Africa and Arnhem. Britain let them stay after the second world war and they have contributed ever since.

Now we face a new wave of immigration into this country from Poles. They are young, energetic, hard-working people. They are builders, plumbers and decorators; they pick our fruit and vegetables in the fields; they are doctors and engineers. We will not see many Poles on the dole or breaking the law. Most Poles are extremely hard working and law-abiding, and make a tremendous contribution to this country. However, we are now reaching the point at which more Poles are returning home than are coming to this country. When they go, we will miss them dearly.

I have come in for a lot of criticism for introducing my Bill, from various people, but the reason I am doing so is that nine out of 10 immigrants to this country are not Poles or even eastern Europeans; they are from further afield—Africa, the West Indies and the Indian sub-continent. Yet the liberal elite of the BBC constantly refer to immigration from Poland, using the Polish community as a cat’s-paw to try to tackle to the thorny issue of mass unchecked immigration into our country. [Hon. Members: “Rubbish!”] That elite realise that immigration has become uncontrolled and needs to be discussed, but they will not dare to refer to
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controversial immigration from other parts, always referring repeatedly to Polish immigration. I have undertaken a study of BBC coverage of immigration. Those hon. Members shouting, “Rubbish!” would be amazed at the amount of BBC coverage that focuses on white, Christian Poles because it is politically correct to do so.

I am also appalled by Trevor Phillips of the Commission for Racial Equality. If what is being done to Poles was being done to a black or other ethnic minority group, it would simply not be tolerated. I demand that the Commission for Racial Equality also focus on white ethnic minorities in this country, so that nobody is penalised or made to feel like a scapegoat. As chairman of the Conservative Friends of Poland group, I have come across many cases pointing to increased violence towards Poles in this country. I am convinced that that is a result of the media coverage by the BBC.

I feel extremely passionately about the issue. As a person of Polish origin, I have tried not to abuse my position here in the House of Commons to focus on Poles, yet I feel compelled to speak out because of my deep concern about how Polish immigration is being covered in the media.

On many occasions, I have spoken to you, Mr. Speaker, about the Polish community. You showed great courtesy and kindness to me in the remarks that you made. You spoke to me about the fact that, as a young boy, you went to mass in your parish, conducted by a Polish chaplain who was there to look after the Polish officers who had stayed in Scotland after the war. Your support and comfort mean more to me than you will ever know. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to raise this matter in the Commons.

12.40 pm

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) is entitled to come to the House to ask us to recognise the contribution made by Poles in this country. I unreservedly do so. I am not of Polish origin, although my sister-in-law comes from a Polish family. I have many Polish constituents and I have Polish friends. I was at school with Polish youngsters in mid-Wales, where they had settled, as they did in other parts of the country. However, I do not think it a well conceived idea to introduce a Bill to give a bank holiday to recognise one group of people, however eminent, who came and served alongside us in this country. I would like the House to reflect on how we ought really to deal with this matter, but deal with it in a different way.

There is no doubting the bravery of the Poles in wartime. They had a special role in our services, especially the Air Force, and they are rightly commemorated. The Poles were not the only people who came from eastern Europe to help in the war. The Czechs also supplied brave people. As you will know, Mr. Speaker, people of other countries—not eastern Europe, but other parts of Europe—specifically came and helped in our struggles. In particular, the Norwegians and the Dutch came to help us in our time of need during the last war.

There are people whom we could recognise as having served us in those dark days from 1940 to 1945, but
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there are others who came from different parts of the world and gave fantastic military service, such as people from many of the islands of the Caribbean. Large numbers of people from India and what are now Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka served in our forces. People from most African countries in the empire—not just South Africa, but the poorest countries such as Sierra Leone—served with great distinction. People from other parts of the world also came. If we were to recognise people who were not British born but who came and served with us, there would be a host of nations that we ought to recognise together.

Since the war, people have come here and made a fantastic contribution in peacetime. Many people whose countries are not members of the European Union but who are European citizens have lived here for 20, 30 or 40 years and contributed, but they are not entitled to full EU rights. Norwegians are such an example.

There are people who have served alongside us in other conflicts, some well conceived and others less so. The French and the Israelis were with us in the Suez conflict. Whether that was a good place to be, history will tell. There are probably a dozen other major countries from all over the world that are with us in Afghanistan to this day, and contributing—for example, the Baltic states, Ukraine and Denmark provide troops. Again, there are others who are assisting in the protection of British interests around the world. People have come from all over the world to do the building, the plumbing and all those other things.

If we are to recognise immigrants in Britain, let us do so, but let us remember, too, the breadth of immigration. Immigrants have come from almost every country in the world. I am privileged to represent a constituency that probably contains people from every country. The other day at my surgery, for the first time I spoke to a woman from the Comoros islands, which indicates the range of people who come here.

We need to be careful when we get into the debate on immigration. To my knowledge, no party has ever argued for uncontrolled immigration. No party has ever considered that to be a responsible attitude. There are different ways of dealing with immigration, and certainly it could be dealt with better. We all accept the need for controls. However, it is obviously wrong to have a go at legal immigrants in this country.

I want to pay a tribute. Were it not for immigrants from Poland, eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and the rest of the world, most of our public services would not function and, in truth, much of the private sector would not function either. If there is a case for recognising immigrants, let us do so, but let us do the same for those who served us in wartime and those who serve us in peacetime.

If the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham wants to engage in a debate about bank holidays, there is a debate to be had. I have long argued that there should be a St George’s day bank holiday in England, a St David’s day public holiday in Wales and a St Andrew’s day public holiday in Scotland as well as the St Patrick’s day holiday in Northern Ireland. There are four other obvious candidates for celebration: Commonwealth day on the second Monday in March—we could rightfully celebrate that as a holiday—VE day in May, United Nations day in October, and Human Rights day in December. There are plenty of causes for celebration
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and for another bank holiday, but, however much I understand his personal commitment, I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept that to single out one nation and its contribution for one specific recognition would not be in the interests of either the Polish community or the other communities in the United Kingdom.

I shall not seek to divide the House on whether the hon. Gentleman should have leave to bring in his Bill, but if he managed to get it as far as a Second Reading debate I would vote against it. I believe that we should be much more inclusive and not so specific in recognising people in this country who come from elsewhere and have contributed so much in peace and in war.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 23 (Motions for leave to bring Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business), and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Daniel Kawczynski, Mr. John Battle, Greg Mulholland, Ann Winterton, David Wright, John Bercow, Mr. Denis MacShane, Stephen Pound, Mrs. Nadine Dorries and Dr. Alan Whitehead.

Bank Holiday (contribution of Polish Citizens)

Mr. Daniel Kawczynski accordingly presented a Bill to establish a bank holiday to celebrate the contribution of Polish citizens to Great Britain since 1940: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 17 October, and to be printed [Bill 114].

Dan Norris (Wansdyke) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When the Leader of the Opposition asked his question about vehicle excise tax during Prime Minister’s Question Time, should he not have declared that he had received a donation from a Bournemouth motor company, Jacksons?

Mr. Speaker: Donations are a matter for individual Members, and I should not be drawn into it.

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Opposition Day

[13th Allotted Day]


Mr. Speaker: I should inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister for the second debate.

12.48 pm

Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham) (Con): I beg to move,

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is currently abroad, and the Minister has courteously explained his reasons for not being present. On behalf of the Conservatives, let me say that we regard the Minister as a more than adequate substitute, and look forward to hearing him speak at both ends of the debate if the House consents to that course.

Everyone is in favour of volunteering. This could turn out to be one of those debates in which there is a serious danger of violent agreement breaking out. It is good to see that no amendment has been tabled to our motion, which I think will be seen as a positive development by the world of volunteering. It will see the House, as would be expected, responding to national volunteering week in a unified and consensual way.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Beveridge report on voluntary action, in which he said that

He is often described as the architect of the welfare state and is sometimes thought of as the apostle of stateism, but he was by no means that. He was a passionate advocate of the benefit to society of what people do themselves.

This is national volunteering week, as I said, which I am sure is why the Chamber is relatively empty. I am sure that hon. Members are taking part in voluntary activities. [Hon. Members: “Henley!”] My hon. Friends make the most ignoble suggestion that the voluntary activity—

Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): That would not be voluntary.

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