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Angie Bray (Ealing Central and Acton) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to address the House for the first time and to take part in what is turning out to be a fascinating debate with some excellent contributions. I congratulate the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) on an excellent and heartfelt maiden speech.
I start by paying tribute to some of my predecessors. Ealing Central and Acton is a new seat and for the past five years it has been well represented by the now hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr Slaughter), who drew on many years of local government experience and his legal background to offer wise advice and counsel. We locked horns on occasions, but on at least two, we were on the same side. The first was to oppose the attempt to impose the infamous west London tram and the second, more recently, was the opposition to any further expansion of Heathrow airport. I respect the fact that the hon. Gentleman put his principles before his career when he stood down from his Government position to pursue that campaign. I hope that he is as pleased as I am with the new coalition Government's early announcement that there will be no third runway at Heathrow. It also seems that the British Airports Authority has finally got the message.
I would also like to mention the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound), whom I have got to know rather well in the past year or so. His boundaries were changed alongside mine and, as he put it to me rather graphically, "You got your best bits from me and I got my best bits from you." So I say to him, thank you for that. I do not need to tell the House what a larger-than-life character he is. He is much loved for his work in the House and his commitment to his constituents. I hope that, in years to come, I can go about my job with the same good humour with which he goes about his.
However, the person I see as my closest predecessor is, of course, my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young). He represented the old Ealing, Acton seat for 23 years and, regardless of people's political allegiance, he is remembered with warmth and affection throughout the constituency. He was the first famous bicycling politician-the bicycling baronet. In Ealing, we still have many photographs of him with his bicycle-and his bicycle clips. He deservedly has a towering reputation in Ealing and Acton. He is always welcome there and I am very aware that I have large shoes to fill-literally, as well as metaphorically.
Ealing Central and Acton is one of the most diverse constituencies one can imagine. The boundary changes have deepened that diversity-the constituency is truly a rich tapestry. We have a long-standing Polish community, an Asian community, an Arab community, a Japanese community and an African community, including a growing Somali community. I want to mention the brilliant work of the Tallo centre in south Acton, which operates on little funding and eases the path of Somalis who come to this country and into our community. When I called there recently during the election campaign, I found two of the staff embarking on their new campaign against female circumcision in the Somali community. That is perhaps a useful reminder to us all that not everyone who comes here to live a better life can leave all their torment behind them. As the local MP, I look forward with all my heart to supporting the work of organisations such as the Tallo centre.
Both Ealing and Acton have long histories. Acton was originally a Saxon village and the name comes from the word meaning "oak tree." It was transformed by the industrial revolution and quickly developed a great reputation for its washing and laundry industry. Indeed, some of the names in Acton still reflect that history-for example, Bollo lane.
Of course, Ealing, too, has an illustrious history. Its icon is an oak tree, which links it neatly with Acton, but I suspect it also represents the famous oak trees on Ealing common and so many of our other wonderful green spaces, of which we are truly very proud. Ealing has for long years been known as "The Queen of the Suburbs", and if any hon. Members would like to take a stroll with me through some of the streets, they will see exactly why it still is.
The earliest surviving census in this country comes from Ealing-from 1599-and John Quincy Adams chose Ealing as his place of residence in 1815 when he came to this country to serve as the American Minister. In 1901, Ealing adopted a coat of arms and a motto-"Respice Prospice"-which means, "Look backwards, look forwards." The good voters of Ealing and Acton may have taken that rather literally when, as it transpired on election night, they voted for me as the MP but also for a Labour council. I will leave others to decide which is which.
There can be no discussion of Ealing without mention of the famous film studios, which are the longest continuously working film studios in the world. They bring great lustre to the borough and have played a significant role in putting the UK at the heart of the international film industry. Who can possibly not have heard of such titles as "The Lavender Hill Mob", "Passport to Pimlico" and "Hue and Cry"? The studios are also just about to remake their "Doctor at Large" series.
On a more serious note, it will be imperative to keep all that history in mind when considering plans to regenerate Ealing and Acton town centres, for regenerated I believe they must be if they are to stride confidently through the 21st century. Crossrail will help. There must be development, but it must be done sensitively in order not to trample on the history and character of the
place. I hope to work closely with the local council and other agencies to ensure that we get things as right as we possibly can.
I look forward to continuing some of the campaigns that I started as a candidate. I have a local transport committee, which meets regularly to discuss Ealing Broadway and Acton main line stations, and I shall continue to campaign-for as long as it takes-to ensure that we keep our A and E departments at both Central Middlesex and Ealing hospitals.
There is much in what we are discussing this afternoon for me to recommend to my constituents. Protecting the environment for future generations and finding ways to make our economy more environmentally sustainable are things that I know the people of Ealing and Acton care passionately about, and that I can support. I should like to put on record at this stage that I am proud of the Conservative record on environmental matters. After all, it was a Conservative Government who introduced the Clean Air Act 1956, which did so much to get rid of the smog in London, and another Conservative Government who introduced tax incentives to ensure that people switched to lead-free petrol. A Conservative council-Westminster city council-pioneered the low emission zone, and a Conservative Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher, was probably the first Prime Minister to choose to make a major speech on the environment, as she did in the late 1980s. In that speech, she reminded us that we are not freeholders on this planet, but leaseholders, and that our duty is to ensure, like all good leaseholders, that we pass on this planet to future generations in the same if not better order than that in which we found it.
However, one issue that I wanted to touch on-it comes within the DEFRA remit-is dangerous dogs, which have become an increasing problem in Ealing and Acton. I was delighted to see that the coalition agreement goes into some detail about tackling that. I am a little disappointed that it is not an immediate priority-I hope it will be, and I am sure it needs to be. We have problems in the parks throughout Ealing and Acton, and I think it is unacceptable that in this day and age, people cannot enjoy their wonderful green spaces because of the blight of such dangerous dogs.
We need to look again at what we do to protect people while supporting the vast majority of responsible dog owners. Principally, this is an issue of enforcement. I am not sure that yet another form of licensing will make any difference, because after all, as we all know, the good guys buy their licences and the bad people do not bother. It is an issue of enforcement. I hope that the Government will look at that, introduce measures, and see how we can toughen penalties and crack down on people who consistently flout the law.
I fully support the measures set out by the Government to increase energy efficiency. In particular, the green deal will make a big contribution to reducing carbon emissions across the UK, but it will also bring direct benefits to householders. People have often raised with me on the doorstep their worries about fuel bills, and these proposals will pay for themselves through savings on energy bills in the future, so it really will provide a double bonus.
Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray) on a very fine speech, and I also congratulate everyone who has made a maiden speech today. It was a real pleasure to be in my place, especially to hear the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley). I always believed that his father would one day look down on us all-I just did not think that it would happen this quickly.
I was concerned when the Secretary of State opened this debate by talking about consensus. I have been involved in the energy industry for almost 40 years, and if we had had some consensus over those decades we might not be in the mess we are in today. How can we have consensus when the Secretary of State opposes nuclear power, and his party is cautious-to put it mildly-on the use of coal? The Liberal Democrats in my area are completely anti-coal, no matter where it comes from or how it is burnt. Some of the partners in the new coalition are climate change deniers, so confusion is more likely than consensus.
Confusion is the last thing that we need in this debate, because we have had far too much delay already-and I blame the previous Government as much as the current one. My Government, in their 13 years, did not do as much as they should have done. In particular, they did not wake up quickly enough to energy security issues and the use of coal, especially coal from the United Kingdom. However, they did wake up to those issues more quickly than the Government before them, who spent 10 years decimating the coal industry in this country, which is an issue not just in the interests of security of supply, but because we were leading the world in clean coal technology. When we closed the coal mines in the 1980s and early 1990s, that clean coal technology went down the drain along with access to some of the most impressive coal reserves to be found anywhere in the world.
The Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change spent the last year and a half going through some of the many issues, and making good progress with little partisanship. However, we must face up to certain problems. For example, there is a huge skills gap across the energy sector, partly as a result of the privatisation of the industry in 1990s, with companies focusing on shareholder profits and driving costs down, not on investing in training and skills. Another question is where the finance will come from. It is estimated that we need £200 billion in 10 years if we are to meet the challenge facing us. If we compare that with the fact that in the past 20 years £100 billion was spent on upgrading the water system, we can see the scale of the challenge.
We have an opportunity to have the most integrated energy system anywhere in the world, with wind, tidal, nuclear, coal and gas-as long as it continues-and we must get to grips with that as a matter of urgency. We must also recognise that the national grid is not fit for purpose. I notice that the coalition's document talks about building an offshore grid, and I welcome that, but we also need to put right the problems with the onshore grid. We have a regulator that, by its own admission, is not fit for purpose. Thankfully, it began to realise, with its report "Project Discovery" last year, that it was not doing the business-something that we have all known for a long time-and we need to make it do the business.
I intervened on my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State to make a point that I have raised several times already and will continue to raise-that this country is importing coal from countries where miners are being killed in their thousands every year. China kills six and Ukraine seven miners for every million tonnes of coal it produces. It is a scandal. If it was young, Asian kids stitching leather footballs, we would refuse to let the produce enter the country, but because it is energy, we close our eyes.
I want to raise another matter with the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change: the increase in fatalities and injuries in the UK. Over the past 10 years, as the number of mines and miners has decreased, major injuries have almost trebled and fatalities have risen fourfold. I hope to take that matter forward with the new Secretary of State and energy Ministers.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Charles Hendry): I would be pleased to receive a delegation from the hon. Gentleman and others similarly concerned about those issues. I take them very seriously indeed, and I will be keen to address them at the earliest possible opportunity.
Mr Anderson: I appreciate that. I realise, from the work that the Minister and I did together on the Energy and Climate Change Committee, the genuineness of that offer, and I will certainly pursue it with him, interested colleagues and people in the mining industry.
In the past five years, there has been a huge step change in the north-east in relation to the opportunities and potential for finding a way forward in an economic way using the new green jobs. We have seen the potential of carbon capture and storage, and along with the university of Newcastle upon Tyne we are developing the potential of underground coal gasification to access some of the billions of tonnes of coal that still lie under the North sea. We hope to build wind turbines on the bank of the River Tyne, using the Narec facility in Blyth, which is developing cutting-edge wind turbine technology. The Secretary of State mentioned the development of electric cars by Nissan, and in my constituency, we are developing the infrastructure to charge those cars.
The reality, however, is that all that is being held together by one organisation-the regional development agency-and when we from the north-east say, "Do not do away with the RDA," we do not say so because we like quangos or because we want to see civil servants kept in jobs; we say it because the RDA works. It has worked in the development of a low-carbon economy, and it is working in trying to make sense of what has happened at Corus. We believe that, if the RDA is removed, it will have a major impact on the economic development of our constituencies and our part of the country. I urge the Secretary of State to argue with the Treasury that the RDA in the north-east is a special case.
In preparing for this discussion, I looked back to the Queen's Speech in 1979, because, from the commitments in the Conservative party manifesto, it seems that what it suggests is the way forward for the country now is similar to what was suggested in 1979. That Queen's Speech read:
"My Government will give priority in economic policy...through the pursuit of firm monetary and fiscal policies....and increase competition by providing offers of sale, including opportunities
for employees to participate where appropriate... Members of the House of Commons will be given an opportunity to discuss and amend their procedures, particularly as they relate to their scrutiny of the work of Government... Legislation will be introduced to promote greater efficiency in local government... My Ministers will work to improve the use of resources in the National Health Service and...facilitate the wider use of primary care... Measures will be introduced to...control...immigration... My Ministers will take steps to...reform...the general law."-[ Official Report, 15 May 1979; Vol. 967, c. 48-51.]
There is nothing unusual there. It is what I would expect from a Conservative party trying to get back into power after 13 years in the shadows. However, I did not expect it to be supported in its attempts, unfortunately, by the Liberal Democrats, but it has been. The latter have signed up to a Thatcherite agenda: cuts to welfare; attacks on the public sector; attacks on workers' terms and conditions; unemployment used as a tool of public policy; attacks on democracy; and attacks on political party funding. We have, indeed, gone back to the future. And what else? There is good news for the bosses: corporation tax cuts; national insurance for employers stopped, but national insurance for employees increased; and a review of the pension age, so that those who have worked all their lives will have to work even longer-it does not matter that they might have started work at 15, because in the near future, they will have to continue until they are 66.
Then there is "freeing up schools"-again, a matter of ideological dogma, with the terms and conditions of teachers and other classroom workers to be put out to the highest bidder-and the privatisation of Royal Mail, with the pensions, pay and jobs in the Royal Mail to be put at risk. Then there is political reform. I was surprised during the election campaign-although I probably should not have been-to hear the Liberal Democrats talking about the link between the trade unions and the labour movement as corrupt. That is an absolute slur on one of the biggest democratic organisations in this country.
The people in Blaydon had a clear choice in the 2010 election, and 7,000 of them made that clear choice when they voted for a gentleman called Glenn Hall, a man who stood firm and true in his beliefs, which were those of the Conservative party. Some 7,000 of my constituents said, "We'll vote for that," whereas 61,000 said, "No, we do not want that," 13,000 of them saying, "We support the Liberal Democrats." However, they did not support the Liberal Democrats to put the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) into No. 10 Downing street. Unfortunately, Members on the Liberal Democrat Benches have let those 13,000 people down, because they have let the Conservatives back in with an agenda that takes us back to where we were 30 years ago, and we are going to end up in the same situation.
The people who voted for the Liberal Democrats in the north-east of England are now seeing the reality of what the Liberal Democrats have done and the mistakes that they have made. People such as me and other Members will ensure that they continue to see those mistakes. The excuse of the Liberal Democrats is: "It's all about Greece." Well, there is only one thing that the Liberal Democrats in this House have shown in connection with Greece-and that is that they want to climb the greasy pole.
Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and welcome you to your post, if only for a short period. I congratulate the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr Anderson) on his speech. I did not necessarily agree with everything that he said, but I do not doubt the passion with which he said it. I should also like to congratulate all those who have spoken today, particularly the new Members, whom I welcome to the Chamber. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my constituents for returning me. I will do what I am sure everyone in the House promised to do-that is, to do my utmost to uphold that trust and serve my constituents' interests in this place, but also try to pass good legislation.
"An agreement between two men to do what both agree is wrong."
I hope that that does not define the nature of our coalition Government. I certainly hope that it will not, for the good of the country; and indeed, I welcome many aspects of the Gracious Speech. For example, on immigration, my constituents are pleased about the annual cap that we will introduce for non-EU immigrants, the creation of a border police force and transitional controls with regard to EU members, and I say that for a number of reasons.
First, immigration was a particularly important issue to my constituents in the general election. Secondly, there was a concern-certainly locally, if not nationally-that the fact that both parties seemed reluctant to discuss the issue lent support to the British National party. Many people in my constituency were tempted to vote for the BNP, but coming out with clear and strong policies has helped to stop that inclination, at least locally. By addressing people's points, I hope that we can put their fears to one side. It is a sad reflection that when we left office in 1997, there were no BNP councillors anywhere in the country, yet today we have approaching 60. That reflects the fact that the former Government's immigration policy was an absolute shambles, and people were rightly concerned about that.
I also disagree with the Labour party and even some of my Liberal friends, and particularly with my Liberal opponent, who said that we should not encourage the BNP on to the stage or give it the air of publicity. However, we have to pull the BNP out of the shadows and show people what it stands for if we are going to take the party head on. I therefore think that the immigration policies announced by the coalition Government are a positive step.
On law and order, I am pleased that we have made it clear that we are going to be tougher on the criminal. Real concern has again been expressed by my constituents that the recorded crime figures clearly show that violent crime is on the increase. The coalition Government's assurance that we are going to get more police out of the police stations and on to the streets by reducing red tape can only be a good thing. The time has come to get tougher with the criminal. My constituents all know that the criminal chooses to commit a crime and that the victim has no choice in the matter. They are therefore very pleased with these policies.
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