|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Those periods were also periods of surging income tax receipts, which demonstrates that this is good for enterprise, profits and jobs. We need
more profits, more savings, more investment and more jobs. If we tax things more lightly, we get more of them. If we tax them more heavily, we get less of them. The enthusiasts for high taxes in this House have always said, "We must put up the taxes on petrol to stop people driving so much, and we must put up the taxes on smoking to stop people smoking so much." So, presumably, putting up the taxes on enterprise will stop people being so enterprising. That must be the logic.
Mr Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): I am enjoying my right hon. Friend's contribution. Did not Margaret Thatcher prove this point when she was Prime Minister? By reducing the level of tax on the top earners, she increased the amount of money that flew into the Exchequer.
Mr Redwood: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding us of the great lady; she was a great Prime Minister. I not sure, however, that that is quite the model we need to persuade those on the Front Bench of a coalition Government. That is why I am drawing on more modern and foreign examples. My right hon. and hon. Friends will understand that we need good friends, because we must win this argument for the sake of our country's prosperity.
I know a number of people whom I describe as entrepreneurs on strike. They have been very successful in business and they are now in their late 40s and 50s. Many of us would feel that they were still quite young- [ Interruption. ] They are also very energetic, as some of us are. They are on strike at the moment, however. They have loads of money in the bank or in a portfolio, but they do not want to commit it to a new business in Britain because they find the atmosphere here too hostile. They think that there are too many regulations and controls, which they find too burdensome. They also find the tax structure too uncertain. They feel that, if they are going to venture their money and work 12 to 14 hours a day to break in a new company and make it a success, they do not want to be paying 40 to 50% tax after five years if the company is working. They know that the Treasury will not be sending them half their losses if the business has not worked, and they feel that it is easier not to bother. They are saying, "I've got enough money, I can live quite comfortably, and I'm on strike." Hon. Members might dislike strikes, as I do, but we have to work alongside them and with those entrepreneurs. This proves the point that if we want to stop something, we tax it. Please, Government, do not stop enterprise, venturing and new developments.
That brings me to my final main point, colleagues will be pleased to know. It relates to an excellent Bill proposed in the Queen's Speech, which has been championed by my new friend, the Deputy Prime Minister: the great repeal Bill. I was delighted to learn that this was a Liberal Democrat idea. I cannot remember how many times I have urged that this House introduce a great repeal Bill, but Liberal Democrat ideas are not always wrong and I am delighted to give them ownership of this one, as long as they will do one thing for me. That is that they should work with us to make it a really good repeal Bill.
There are many things that we need to repeal. I shall not go on about them at huge length, because other colleagues wish to speak. I have sent the Deputy Prime
Minister 27 proposals for the great repeal Bill, and they are also on that well-known website, johnredwood.com-I hope that I am permitted a commercial in this hallowed Chamber. If colleagues think it a good idea, they too should write to the Deputy Prime Minister with their pet ideas for the great repeal Bill. We do not want Ministers to come to the Dispatch Box with half a dozen perfectly good ideas, and then to say, "Well, we had a consultation, but nobody had anything else that they wanted knocked out." I am sure that colleagues have their own ideas, and they should please put them in. If they do not, I do not mind them borrowing all the ones from my website. I do not expect any praise or attribution. They can even put in their letters that they do not like me, or perhaps that they agree with me. They can put in whatever they wish, if they think that it will help to get their message across. We need to bombard the Government with as many ideas as possible while they are listening and trying to construct the great repeal Bill.
We need to get costs off the back of British business. It is not easy to cut taxes as much as I would like-because the Government will not believe all my good news on how that would raise revenues-so we need also to cut the regulatory costs on business, so that more people can be persuaded that it is worth while to work. Our country is disfigured by 6 million people of working age who do not have a job. Some of them are chronically disabled and very ill; we all wish them any speedy recovery they can get and we wish to send them as much money as we can so that they can have a reasonably comfortable life. Most of the 6 million are not in that category, however, so it must be a high priority for this Government to use whatever means they can to get them back to work, which requires a strong and vibrant private sector for them to find jobs on offer. That is the central task.
If this Parliament masters the deficit before it demolishes us, if this Parliament gives hope to 6 million people out of work and if this Parliament creates an enterprising and fast-growing private sector economy, it will deserve to be well rewarded by the electorate in five years' time or whenever the end comes.
It might help the House, and particularly Members seeking to catch your eye this evening, if you instructed the Treasury Bench Members to make available an 82-page document, which is not in the Library and not in the Vote Office, but is available in the Press Gallery. I think you hold my view that this House should be the first to receive information. A great deal of detailed information is in the document, some of which is available on the Government website, but Members seeking to catch your eye in this Chamber cannot gain access to that website. It would therefore be incredibly useful if every Member could have access to this document.
Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, of which I had no detailed advance notice. I see no reason why the document should not be made readily available in the Vote Office. Representatives of the Treasury Bench are here and they have heard what the hon. Gentleman has said. I feel sure that he will be gratified sooner than he might have expected.
Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood). He was elected on the very same day I was elected to this place and I think that he is sitting in almost the same place from which he delivered his maiden speech; I am certainly sitting in the same place as when I first arrived here in 1987. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has not delivered the same speech that he gave on the earlier occasion. He referred to johnredwood.com, and we are all going to go out there and log on. When we were first elected, computers were not even around, so this marks a big advance for us.
Mr Speaker, you reprimanded Members who congratulated you on the previous occasion you were elected Speaker, but I want to join others in congratulating you on your re-election. In the months you have been Speaker, you have not only shown your command in this House, but you have gained the enormous respect that we all have for you and your work-hence your re-election without anyone against you. Congratulations.
I would also like to congratulate the hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds) on making his first speech as leader of the Democratic Unionist party. We were at the same university but not at the same time, so I do not know what his reputation was, but I know that he will lead his party with great distinction. In debates in which I have participated with him, he has certainly shown an independent state of mind-not always supporting the Government and not always supporting the Opposition. Sitting next to him, of course, is the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley). When I first sat in my place here 23 years ago, I was sitting near his father. One tends to wonder whether one has sat here for too long when the sons get elected to replace their fathers.
What has been impressive about this election is the way in which the House of Commons has changed. When I was first elected, there were four Members from the ethnic minority communities representing the Labour party. As I look across the Chamber, I see one that has become more representative of the country, which I think is a tribute to the work of all the parties and, indeed, of Parliament, in trying to ensure that we get more women and ethnic minority people elected to the British Parliament. I am sure that they will all make their contributions in their own way, representing all their constituents to the best of their ability. I want to congratulate all new Members on their election.
It would be churlish to speak in the debate on the Loyal Address without congratulating Ministers. I know that they have not all rushed in to hear my speech, but I am sure that those present on the Treasury Bench will pass on our good wishes about the election of those Ministers.
This is, of course, an important time in British politics. We have never had a coalition Government while I have been a Member of Parliament; indeed, as we were reminded by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), there has not been one for 70 years. However, I think that right hon. and hon. Members opposite should stop apologising for, or explaining, the coalition. The right hon. Member for Wokingham kept explaining why it was necessary, but
the fact is that no party had an absolute majority in the House of Commons, and if we want stable government, we must have a coalition.
We will of course do our best to support coalition policies when they are in the best interests of the country, but when we feel that they are wrong, we will challenge them. As the Leader of the Opposition said today, that would be done by any good and effective Opposition. I think that we should put the explanations to one side, and that the coalition should get on with being the coalition, governing the country and putting before the House proposals that we will scrutinise.
I know that many other Members wish to take part in this debate so I shall raise just four issues, the first of which concerns home affairs. I had the privilege of chairing the Home Affairs Committee for three years during the last Parliament and I found it interesting that the Government adopted a number of the Committee's recommendations at the very end of the Session, including the creation of a national security council. We proposed that the various strands advising Ministers on national security should be combined in a single body-not quite the "situation room" of "The West Wing", but a body that the Prime Minister could consult in order to obtain effective and important advice about the security of the nation. I am pleased that the Government accepted those recommendations.
I am also pleased that the Home Secretary has decided to review the case of Gary McKinnon. I see that the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) is sitting in his place-or, rather, not in his place, which was formerly on this side of the House, but almost directly opposite it. I pay tribute to him for the amazing work that he did on behalf of his constituent. I believe that the fact that Gary McKinnon is still here is due to the hon. Gentleman's work as a constituency Member, which should serve as a model for any Member who might take up an issue of this kind. He was able to bring the attention of the House and the country to Gary McKinnon's plight.
As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Select Committee resolved unanimously that Gary McKinnon should not be extradited to the United States of America, but should be tried in this country. Although we heard some comments from members of the Government this morning about the progress of the review, I am happy to leave it to the Home Secretary to examine the evidence that we urged the former Home Secretary to examine, and to arrive at the right conclusion: that Gary McKinnon should be allowed to stay and face trial in this country. That is the right thing for him to do if the prosecuting authorities believe that he should do it.
The Government have accepted other proposals in our reports, including our very last report, which dealt with the detention of children in immigration cases. We felt that that was wrong, and I am glad that the Government have accepted our view.
Now for the bad news, however. I think that we have some problems with the Government's policing proposals. Of course it is up to any Government taking office to decide their priorities, but I would recommend caution over policing budgets. I know that it was suggested in the statement made yesterday by the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that £376 million could be found from the home affairs budget specifically for
policing matters, but I do not believe that many police authorities in the country are wasting money on front-line policing.
I think that this will be an issue for every single Member of the House. As the cuts proceed and the bills are sent to local police authorities, we will see the impact on local policing. It has always been true that we should protect front-line services. Of course the invention of police community support officers has been extremely important, because they provide back-up for front-line officers, and of course it is possible to make savings on administration and red tape. That was another of the Select Committee's recommendations.
In our report "Policing in the 21st century", we spoke of the need to use good practice and to share it around the country. For example, Staffordshire has reduced the number of forms to be filled in from 24 to one. As a result, more police time has been released. Another of our recommendations, which the previous Government had started to implement, was that every single police officer should have a hand-held computer, an effective way of dealing with crime at the scene of a crime. If that new technology is to be put at risk because of the proposals to cut police budgets, we ought to be concerned; not necessarily in a party-political way, but in a way that is above party politics. At the end of the day, what our constituents want and need more than anything else is the ability to pick up a phone when a crime has been committed and to ensure that a police officer comes as soon as possible so that they are able to report the crime.
Mr Nigel Evans: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that what constituents want-they certainly said this to me during the election-is more police officers on the beat and fewer in police stations drowning in bureaucracy?
Keith Vaz: The hon. Gentleman has made this point before. As a small business man, he was concerned about policing in his constituency. It is also, of course, natural constituency work. People want visibility and if they do not see a police officer, they get worried. When we consider police budgets and re-organisation, we must make sure that we protect those front-line services.
We also ought to be very careful about electing commissioners and chief constables. I am all in favour of a review of the police committees. Most police committees are not absolutely accountable to local people, most of whom do not know who sits on their police committees. Similarly, very few people know who the executive directors of primary care trusts are, despite the fact that they dispense a huge amount of NHS money locally. I am all for more accountability and am happy to look at proposals that would allow certain numbers of people to be elected on to police committees, but we should not take away the operational responsibilities of police officers and the priorities of local policing from police officers and place them in the hands of people who do not necessarily have the experience to do their work.
Mr Graham Stuart:
For a man of his experience and expertise, I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman morphed the election of police commissioners with the election of police chief constables. No one is suggesting the election of chief constables. We are talking about
addressing the very point that the right hon. Gentleman rightly makes, which is that there is no accountability. When we knock on the doors of our constituents, we find that they are frustrated that the local police force has not been focused on local needs and wants but on what I call cricked-neck policing, looking always to the Home Office for leadership. The elected police commissioner, working with the unelected chief constable, will provide the accountability and clarity to local people who have suffered from frustration for too long.
Keith Vaz: I am very pleased to hear that reassurance from the hon. Gentleman, who knows his party's policy better than I do. I am glad that there is no proposal to elect chief constables, but we must look at the democratic deficit to see how it can be filled effectively, leaving operational matters to local people. [ Interruption. ] A former Police Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), has just come in, no doubt to check on what I am saying about him. I have said nice things, I can assure him.
On identity cards, there has always been concern-my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick), a member of the Committee in the last Parliament, was always very strong on this subject, as was the Committee as a whole for a number of years, certainly before I took over the Chair-that they would not deal with the issues that the previous Government had in mind. The Government believe that identity cards should be abolished but they have been introduced and apply to foreign nationals. We need to look at the practical implications of that. What do those people do? Do they have to give back their identity cards, or will we keep them specifically for those who are not resident in this country? We need to look at the detail.
The Select Committee also expressed concern that the DNA of innocent people was being kept on the DNA database. It is the largest DNA database in Europe, and there was great concern about people being able to get their DNA off it, including Members of this House whose DNA was taken from them, especially the hon. Member for Chelsea and Fulham (Greg Hands). He conducted a three-year campaign to try to get his DNA off the database, only finally to be told it was never on it in the first place. If we had a more effective way of dealing with such situations, we would not have had the problems we ended up with. I will support the Government on the database scheme because that is precisely what the Select Committee said when we last conducted an inquiry into the subject.
I am worried that the proposed cuts to the health budget will remove some of the emphasis our Government placed on health, and especially preventive health care, over the past 13 years. I only discovered that I had diabetes five years ago, when by chance I went to my local GP at a time when a drugs company had been asked to conduct a pilot involving a new diabetes drug. I just went along to our local health centre to launch this scheme, as most of us would do. I was telephoned the next day to be told I was on the front page of the Leicester Mercury opening the pilot study, and then I was phoned by my GP to be told that the bad news was that I had type 2 diabetes.
The issue here is that the more money we spend on preventive work and testing people for diabetes, making sure their cholesterol is under control, the less we as a
country will have to spend. At present, £1 million an hour is spent on diabetes-related care. At present, too, 500,000 people have diabetes without knowing that-including some Members of this House, to repeat a point I have made before-and if we direct that £1 million at testing the population for diabetes, that will save us a lot of money in the future, and lengthen people's lives. If people have diabetes without knowing that, that can knock at least five years off their life.
Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): I want to pick the right hon. Gentleman up on a different point, if I may. He talked about health spending cuts, but we on the Government Benches were elected on a platform of real-terms increases in health spending, so when he talk about cuts, that is not strictly accurate.
Keith Vaz: I am very pleased to hear that, and when the Health Secretary comes before the House, I hope the hon. Gentleman will join me in pressing him for more money, not the same amount, to be spent on preventive work-I have already lobbied the Secretary of State on that in the Tea Room. If we prevent illnesses, we spend much less in the long term and we save lives.
Let me make two final points. First, on banking reform, I think we all got the message during the election about the need to be pretty beastly to the bankers. My concern is the Government's proposal to hand regulation back to the Bank of England. A number of Members were first elected to Parliament at about the same time as me. I know that the Conservative Chief Whip was elected the year before, and my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell) was here before anyone present in this Chamber now, although he does not look as if that is the case; he still looks as young and spry as when he was first elected to the House.
One of the campaigns I took up was to do with Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the sixth largest private bank in the world, which suddenly closed because the then Government were not prepared to accept the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi's cheque for $6 billion to keep that bank open-even though, of course, we kept Northern Rock open recently and gave a lot of public money to a number of other banks. The liquidation of BCCI is still going on. The right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) will remember that when he was a Trade and Industry Minister, I had a very good meeting with him at which we discussed what we were going to do about the liquidation. It may surprise him to know that this liquidation, which started on 5 January 1991, is still going on after all these years, with millions and millions of pounds going on liquidators' fees. What might the sums involved have been if we had kept the bank open? It was the Bank of England that allowed BCCI to continue to trade, which is why I think handing regulation back to the Bank of England will be a problem. We have the Financial Services Authority, which began because of BCCI and the recommendations of the Bingham inquiry, so we should make sure that we are careful about moving around the regulatory system.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|