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"to minimise abuse of the immigration system, for example via student routes".
I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us precisely what the Government's intentions are. Will a bond be payable? Does he expect that this will cut or increase the number of students coming to the UK from emerging economies? Has the Foreign Office been consulted on this process? In particular, what plans does he have for the Chevening scholarships? The Chevening website already says that this year's places cannot yet be confirmed, which means that people who have been offered places do not know whether they will be coming. When will the review be completed? How many students will be studying this year and for the next three years, and from which countries will they come?
Mr Ellwood: The point about visas is important. Bournemouth has a number of English language schools, which attract people from places such as China. The Labour Government introduced new guidelines so that people had to have a certain standard of English before they could even come to this country, thus defeating the purpose of their coming here to learn English in the first place.
Chris Bryant: I am only asking what the Government's policy is-that is the job of the Opposition. The Labour Government did some things to ensure that significant loopholes that were being used to circumvent the proper immigration process were tackled. In particular, we decided to restrict the number of places available in northern India because there had been a sudden spike in the number of applications. Of course one has to be rational about this. I just want to know what conciliation has taken place between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat positions on this issue since the election.
In each of the countries that we are talking about there remain significant barriers to free and fair trade. In some instances we need to be sensitive to the political and cultural realities of those nations. For example, Mexico's constitution forbids the ownership of that which lies under the earth by anyone other than Mexico. I hope that the Minister will press the Mexican Government for further reform of the energy law, so that British companies can help Mexico to realise its resources-I hope that he will write to me on that point. Likewise, we need to restart the Doha round with an enhanced offer from the European Union on the common agricultural policy, especially now that the EU-Latin America banana war is over.
In that regard, an additional issue needs to be tackled: the casual approach in several countries towards intellectual property. Every report on intellectual property has suggested that those countries that most carefully delineate and protect the fruits of human intelligence are those that stand the best chance of prosperity. That becomes a virtuous circle, because people invest in ideas, commercialise them and then reinvest the profits in education and research. I hope that the Government will use the international institutions to push through a stronger global understanding of intellectual property issues-particularly in relation to China-be it in respect of the work of a musician or a playwright, an engineer or a scientist.
One other barrier to free and fair trade is corruption. Many of these emerging economies still languish a long way down the list of openness and transparency, with South Africa 55th, Turkey 61st, Brazil 75th, China 79th, India 84th, Mexico 89th and Russia a shocking 146th on Transparency International's corruption perceptions index, which I think is much respected by all.
As I have said, we need to use bilateral and multilateral levers to try to change all that. The most important of those is the European Union. For too long, Europe has allowed itself to be run ragged by the likes of Russia, China and India. If European countries are to flourish economically, we have to realise that we need greater unity based on self-discipline in our approach to those growing economies. Likewise, we need a common approach to Turkey-a country that is all too often left off the list of emerging economies, despite already
being the 16th-largest economy in the world, and on the up. It must be in the UK's interest for the Bosphorus tiger eventually to join the European Union.
On human rights and the rule of law, it is always tempting for a British company or Government to sideline human rights abuses when trying to secure an important new contract. However, that is always a mistake, as tacit acceptance of the status quo in terms of unscrupulous business practices all too often rebounds on the careless investor. In many of the countries that we are talking about, the human rights record is truly appalling. Russia, for example, is, economically, virtually a monogorod, or a town built on a single industry-petrocarbons. As the petrocarbons industry involves massive investment projects with potentially high returns and equally high risks, the Russian Government take a very direct interest in every aspect of it, but anxiety about excessive state intervention, about state appropriation of private assets and about corruption at the highest level has made it difficult for British companies to make the long-term investment needed to keep pipes running. When one adds to that the scandalous oppression of the media, the murder of journalists, the imprisonment of dissidents and the regular use of torture by the police and in prisons, it is a pretty heavy indictment of the Russian leadership. I am delighted that President Medvedev has made some excellent comments about tackling corruption, but so far that is just rhetoric, and very similar rhetoric to that used by Mr Putin when he was President.
I could make similar comments about China, which executes more people than the whole of the rest of the world and where there is the ongoing disgrace that is the treatment of the people of Tibet. In Brazil and Mexico, notwithstanding the efforts of Presidents Lula and Calderon, drug-related violence is endemic, especially in Mexico, torture is commonplace, and the rights of indigenous people are not fully recognised. In India, too, there have been unprovoked attacks on minorities-in Orissa state against Christians, and in Assam and Andhra Pradesh against Muslims. In that context, I ask the Minister which human rights projects in each of the emerging economies he proposes to continue and which he will cut. Will the project on the rights of children in the legal system in Brazil survive? Will the training of judges aimed at reducing the use of the death penalty in China survive? Will the civil society project in Chechnya continue? Or will all the human rights work in India, Russia, China and Brazil that is sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office be cut?
There is a tendency for Foreign Office Ministers-I confess that I did this myself-to declare whenever they arrive anywhere that they want to improve relations with that country. After all, it is only polite, and that is normally the aim of the visit. I am sure that we all want to improve trade with the emerging economies, but that requires a consistent approach to free and fair trade, a determination to assist British businesses abroad and a commitment to the British values of the rule of law and human rights. Above all, it requires a strategy for UK growth, but through all the hype, spin and glorious guff that we have heard from the new Government, the one thing we have not yet had is any sign of a strategy for growth.
I have worked in many parts of the world, including in many emerging economies, and I have seen the growing asymmetry in how business is done in parts of the world that are growing at a faster rate than ours and with whom we will need to do business if we are to maintain our global economic position. That is a real challenge for us all and I will be keen to contribute to further debates on the need for stronger relationships between the United Kingdom and those emerging economies, particularly those in the area of central Asia that I think is not well understood and with which our relationships are not as deep as they should be. However, my priority in the House, for as long as the people of South Thanet so choose, is to serve them and to ensure that the House and this Government support their needs and address their concerns.
I pay tribute to my predecessor, Dr Ladyman. He was an exceptionally committed Member of Parliament for South Thanet for 13 years, and held two distinguished posts in Transport and Health. On a personal note, he was extremely courteous and generous throughout our four-year campaigning trail together. I wish him great good luck in his new job as chief executive of a retirement home company. I know that in that role he will show the same commitment with which he served the people of South Thanet.
I live in and represent one of the best-kept secrets in the country-a series of towns and villages that demonstrate what is best about this country. I know how beautiful, how surprising and how unique each of the towns is that I represent, but over the last four years it has been particularly rewarding to see the number of supporters who came to South Thanet-some of them are here tonight-and who gasped with excitement when they saw the beauty of Ramsgate harbour, who saw that Broadstairs is one of the most perfect seaside towns, and who were staggered by Sandwich, which is considered nationally the most perfect medieval town. Even in Cliftonville, the poorest ward in the south-east, people recognised its architecture and its potential.
South Thanet has a particular relationship with the House. I live about a quarter of a mile from where Pugin built a church and his house. Ramsgate has many of the same architectural icons as the House, so there is a part of this place in South Thanet and a part of South Thanet here.
It is not just the place itself. The people of east Kent and South Thanet have attitude. We are independent. We have stood up against many wars and we have been on the front line against many invasions. I was privileged to be at the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk little ships. Many people from my area, whether fishermen or small boat owners, went in their boats to save 300,000 of our soldiers who were on the beaches of Dunkirk. I am proud to represent such courageous and independent people in the House.
We have come into government at one of the most difficult times for many generations and what we achieve in the next five years will define our future for the next generation. I am sure that none of us on the Government Benches are under the illusion that we will not have to
do things that will make us unpopular. What we must be judged on is whether we are being fair and whether we are rewarding those who take responsibility.
It is on fairness and responsibility that I want to contribute to the debate. This week is the start of carers week. In South Thanet, we have one of the largest numbers of carers in the country. Coastal towns have a high percentage of carers. Young, old, frail, healthy-carers are selfless family members whose lives become dominated by the responsibilities they voluntarily take on. Being a carer is not subject to any working time directive; carers are full-time, on call 24 hours. Their lives are dominated by the needs of others. When helping those with chronic illnesses, they often forfeit their own life, and certainly their livelihood. Having watched my mother look after my father for five years before he died, I have seen at first hand the toll that can be taken on the carer.
We need to ensure that we put carers at the heart of our review of care for the elderly. It is crucial that we look at the role they play. In many ways, they will be one of the front lines in public services in the future. I urge the Government to ensure that we support those who support their loved ones. We need to look again at providing respite for carers. We need to review the cut-off of carer's allowance when people reach pensionable age-just when they need it most-and we need to place the carer's role at the heart of our review of care for the elderly.
When we leave the House-not for many years, we hope-we might all need carers, or we might all need to care for others. I would prefer that to be done by a loving relative-someone who will be there for me in my time of need-and I am certain that many other Members would, too. As the Prime Minister says, we need to reward those who take responsibility, and never can that be better said than about 6 million carers who give up their lives and selflessly give their time to their loved ones.
Alok Sharma (Reading West) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to make my maiden speech. I start by congratulating my hon. Friends the Members for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips) and for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) on their excellent and moving maiden speeches.
My constituency of Reading West was created in 1983 and was served from then until 1997 by a Conservative Member, Sir Anthony Durant, who previously represented the Reading North seat between 1974 and 1983. Sir Anthony was an excellent constituency MP, who served the people of Reading with great distinction. In recent months, Sir Anthony has not been in the best of health, and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."]
My immediate predecessor was the Labour Member, Martin Salter, who represented Reading West for 13 years. No one who knows him could ever describe Martin as a shy and retiring individual. He always had and continues to have firm opinions on every political subject. Indeed, during his time as an MP, he sometimes held two opposing firm opinions on the same subject, both delivered with great conviction. A constituent of mine once compared Martin Salter to Marmite by saying, "You either loved him, or you wished that you had never opened the jar to let him out." Despite our many political rows and
differences during the four years that I was a candidate and he was the Member of Parliament, I grew to rather like Martin, but then I must also confess to liking Marmite.
"move on and do something else with my life while I've still got some energy left."
Martin Salter certainly brought energy to his work on behalf of the people of Reading during his 25 years of public service-first, as a local councillor and then as the Member of Parliament for Reading West. Like Sir Anthony before him, he was a champion of local causes, a dedicated constituency MP, and he stood up for all the people of Reading West. I very much hope to continue in that fine tradition and serve each and every one my constituents to the best of my abilities.
I turn now to my wonderful constituency of Reading West, which stretches from the villages of Theale, Tidmarsh and Pangbourne in the west, to the more urban areas of Coley and Whitley towards the east. I grew up and went to school in Reading, and for me Reading is, quite simply, home. It is a confident and vibrant town full of aspirational and hard-working people. As a settlement, Reading was founded in the 8th century and was listed in the Domesday Book as a growing population centre-much as it is today. Reading abbey was built by Henry I in 1121, where he is also buried.
Although Reading has a long and honourable history, it is now very much a modern place. Originally famous for producing beer, biscuits and bulbs, Reading is now a high-tech and service industry hub and is home to many locally grown businesses, as well as international companies, such as Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco.
Reading also offers culture, with the internationally renowned Reading music festival being held every August. Hon. Members with a liking for contemporary music should know that a few tickets are still available for this year's festival. The very fine Madejski football stadium is located in my constituency, and I am sure that, before too long, we will see Reading football club return to its rightful place in the premiership.
In their maiden speeches many Members have mentioned great historical figures who are connected with their constituency, but, as I said, Reading is a modern place, so I would like to mention just two of the recent renowned sons and daughters of our great town. Kate Winslet was born and grew up in Reading. Her parents are constituents of mine. We are very proud of Miss Winslet's Oscar-winning achievements. Locally, Miss Winslet's mother is also a winner. Last year she was awarded first prize in a local pub's pickled onion-making competition. Who says Reading cannot match Hollywood's glamour?
The comedian and actor Mr Ricky Gervais grew up in Whitley, not far from where my parents lived when they first moved to Reading. I do not know Mr Gervais personally, but it is entirely possible that we loitered in the same shopping precinct when we were youngsters. Of course, one of us has now gone on to great things-and the other has become a Member of Parliament.
I am very pleased to be making my maiden speech during this debate on emerging economies, one of the largest of which is India. I know a little of the country. My family hails from India originally; I have advised European companies on doing business there; and some
months ago I visited India on a research project and interviewed a range of corporate leaders, civil servants and opinion formers to hear their views on India's development and economic ambitions. What is absolutely clear is that over the past decade the relationship between emerging economies such as India and China on the one hand, and the industrialised nations in the west on the other, has developed from one of the emerging economies being junior partners to a relationship of equals, with real potential for the likes of China and India to emerge as first among economic equals.
The emerging economies present challenges for us. We have seen some British jobs offshored to low-cost locations. With increasing globalisation and cost pressures on corporates, a certain level of offshoring is here to stay, whether we like it or not. But emerging economies also present a huge opportunity for British companies and jobs in this country. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne), talked about statistics. Let me give the House a few on India. We have heard about annual growth rates of 7 to 9%. There is a middle class of around 400 million people and growing. Well over 60% of the population is aged below 35. India is looking to make significant investments in its infrastructure, in pharmaceuticals and health care, IT, green technologies, and food and agriculture, to name just a few sectors ripe for investment and growth. We in Britain have leading companies with significant expertise and know-how in many of these and other sectors.
In Reading, I have met home-grown technology companies that are exporting value-added products across the world. As a Government, we should be doing everything we can to help and encourage our companies to take advantage of the growth markets in the emerging economies. That will in turn help to create value-added and long-term jobs in the United Kingdom.
I was very pleased that the Gracious Speech made mention of developing an enhanced partnership with India. Because of our shared history and the mutual good will and affection between Britain and India, we already have a special relationship on an emotional level. We now need to make sure that we translate that good will and understanding into a special relationship based on trade and commerce to our mutual benefit. If we can do that in a timely manner, it will be to the advantage of British companies and will help safeguard and create jobs in our country which will be vital as we aim to grow and expand the British economy.
Jesse Norman (Hereford and South Herefordshire) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for letting me catch your eye, and welcome to the Chair. I also welcome Ministers to the Dispatch Box and congratulate the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) on his position on the Opposition Front Bench.
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